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Recap: classic rock in 2011

The good, the bad, the "it is what it is"

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It was a year of contrasts: reunions and retirements, career milestones and obituaries. Here's our look in the rear view at 2011 as seen through the eyes of classic rock fans.

Passings

Clarence Clemons
Clarence Clemons photo by Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

There is a sense of loss, but many good memories, too, as we remember those we lost in 2011.

Clarence Clemons
The "Big Man" was a member of E Street Band from the day it was formed in 1971.

Gary Moore
Blues rock axeman had a successful solo career after a six year stint with Thin Lizzy, beginning in 1973.

Dan Peek
Provided high harmony vocals for America, the band he co-founded in 1969.

Keef Hartley
Name recognition got a big boost from his performance at Woodstock in 1969.

Gerry Rafferty
Co-founded Stealers Wheel, then found success as a solo artist.

Bert Jansch
Jimmy Page, Neil Young, Paul Simon and Donovan are just a few of the many who cite guitarist/singer/songwriter Jansch as one of their primary influences.

In addition to those performers, we also said goodbye to noted rock photographers Barry Feinstein (who shot more than 500 album cover images) and Robert Whitaker (most famous for his Beatles album cover featuring decapitated, dismembered baby dolls) and to Don Kirshner, who mentored and/or managed songwriters and bands, and was well known for matching songs to artists with great success.

Pairings

Ke$ha and Alice Cooper
Cooper & Ke$ha photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS

Alice Cooper and Ke$ha
They co-wrote and performed "What Baby Wants" on Cooper's Welcome 2 My Nightmare. with Ke$ha playing the role of the devil. Coop said he chose her for the same reason he dueted with Donovan on Billion Dollar Babies: because it would be unexpected.

Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks
Stewart and Nicks had met just once and had never performed together, when they paired up for the Heart and Soul 2011 North America Tour, a run of 13 arena shows in March and April.

Lou Reed and Metallica
Over the years, Reed has done folk rock, glam rock, psych rock, and experimental noise. So it wasn't too much of a surprise when Reed paired up with heavy metal banner carriers, Metallica for Lulu. The idea was born when Reed and Metallica shared the stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th anniversary concert series in 2009.

Jason Bonham and Paul Rodgers
Bonham took a break from his latest band mates (Black Country Communion) to tour the U.K. with Rodgers (ex-Free, Bad Company, Queen) in April. The set list was a Rodgers career retrospective.

David Crosby and Graham Nash
Crosby and Nash are fairly frequent touring partners, but it was especially interesting to see them at Occupy Wall Street, singing the same Crosby Stills Nash & Young songs that were anthems of antiwar protests four decades ago.

Super Heavy
Mick Jagger teamed up with Dave Stewart (ex-Eurythmics,) Joss Stone, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley and composer A.R. Rahman to record an album which the Rolling Stones vocalist described to Rolling Stone magazine as "wide-ranging - from reggae to ballads to Indian songs in Urdu."

Reunions

Buffalo Springfield
Buffalo Springfield photo by Authenticated News / Getty Images)

There nothing quite like a reunion of long broken up bands to stir up some good memories. There were several memorable reunions of classic rock bands in 2011.

Buffalo Springfield
A one-off performance at Neil Young's annual Bridge School Benefit concert in 2010 grew into a successful tour in the summer of 2011 for surviving original members Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay.

Pink Floyd
It was a bittersweet reunion of the last three surviving members of Pink Floyd when David Gilmour and Nick Mason joined Roger Waters during one of his London performances of The Wall. The last time they were together was at Live 8 in 2005, when the roster included Rick Wright, who died in 2008.

The Doors
Surviving members John Densmore, Robbie Krieger and Ray Manzarek reunited for the first time since 2000 to write and perform a song for the documentary film, Re:Generation.

Utopia
Part progressive, part hard rock, part soft rock, part new wave, Todd Rundgren's Utopia (1973-1986) reunited in 2011 for their first tour since 1975.

The Cars
Surviving original members Ric Ocasek, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, and David Robinson -- reuinted for a new album and tour, performing together for the first time since 1988. Ocasek had long maintained that the band would never reunite, but he told Paste magazine he was "amazed at how we clicked when we got back together." Missing from the roster of original Cars was bassist Ben Orr, who died of cancer in 2000.

Milestones

The Zombies in 1964
The Zombies photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images

Artists and their albums celebrated significant anniversaries in 2011.

The Zombies - 50th anniversary

Days of Future Passed - 45th anniversary of the Moody Blues' iconic concept album

Queen - 40th anniversary

Nazareth - 40th anniversary

Aqualung - 40th anniversary of the Jethro Tull classic

Woodstock - 42nd anniversary

Retirements

Phil Collins
Phil Collins photo by Friedemann Vogel / Getty Images

All things (including the good ones) must come to an end, as announcements in 2011 from these artists proved.

Phil Collins
Collins became deaf in one ear after a viral infection 11 years ago, and in 2009 underwent surgery after dislocating several vertebrae in his neck, rendering him unable to play drums. He attributes his decision to retire not just to his health but to his desire to trade rock stardom for active involvement with his family.

Kerry Livgren
Livgren, the driving force behind Kansas, told Classic Rock Revisited that because of the lingering effects of a stroke he suffered two years ago, "the days of performing live are probably over," but says he's grateful to still be recording with his pre-Kansas band, Proto-Kaw.

Michael Sweet
After Brad Delp died in 2007, Sweet was recruited to fill his slot as Boston vocalist. Sweet left Boston to devote all his time and energy to his job as vocalist for Stryper.

Judas Priest
The veteran hard rockers began a long goodbye, launching what they said would be their last tour, to be followed by a new album in 2012. Prior to the tour, founding member, guitarist KK Downing retired after 43 years on the job.

Temporary setbacks

Leslie West of Mountain
Leslie West photos by Mario Tama / Getty Images; album cover SBME Special Markets

Leslie West
Having his leg amputated from the knee down in June didn't stop West from fulfilling a 20-city U.S. tour in October and November to promote his new solo album, Unusual Suspects. The amputation was necessary due to complications from diabetes.

Cheap Trick
A sudden wind gust sent a stage crashing down at Ottawa Bluesfest in July, sending members of Cheap Trick (who were performing at the time) and their crew literally running for their lives. Several people who were backstage, including the band's equipment truck driver, were injured badly enough to require hospital treatment.

Gregg Allman
He was back on the road after recovering from a liver transplant when Allman (Allman Brothers Band) had to cancel or postpone more than a dozen shows due to a respiratory infection.

Meat Loaf
Meat's 2007 tour was canceled midway through because of voice problems resulting from a cyst on a vocal cord. In 2011, what were called "flu-like symptoms" resulted in the postponement of two weeks worth of shows in Canada.

Jon Lord
The former Deep Purple keyboardist revealed in August that he is taking a break from performing while he undergoes treatment for cancer. Lord says part of his therapy is continuing to write music.

Alice Cooper
Coop's streak of 30 years without missing a show came to an end in June when he had to cancel a performance in Chile because of a bad case of food poisoning. He was back on stage in Buenos Aires a couple of days later.

Paul Stanley
The KISS vocalist/guitarist underwent surgery in August to address "recurring vocal cord issues." A full recovery is expected, aided by the fact that it won't be until sometime in Fall 2012 that KISS go on tour again.

Steven Tyler
The Aerosmith singer got food poisoning, which caused him to become dehydrated, which caused him to get dizzy, which caused him to fall and knock out two teeth. In spite of it all, he was back on stage in Paraguay the night after all that happened.

Iggy Pop
Iggy and The Stooges had to cancel a week's worth of U.S. shows after Iggy tripped on a mic stand during a performance in Romania. Doctors say he broke his foot in the fall, and ordered a couple of months of no gigs.

Two artists had to cancel concert dates due to family health issues. Elvis Costello suspended his tour to tend to the serious illness of an unnamed "close family member." Pat Benatar canceled the remainder of her 2011 dates after her husband (and guitarist for more than 30 years) "Spyder" Giraldo was sidelined with an arm injury in September.

Oddities and Interesting Events

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Bob Dylan performed in Vietnam for the first time in his long career, for a receptive crowd of about 4,000 at a university in Ho Chi Min City (known way back when as Saigon.) The set list was short on signature Dylan protest songs, long on standards like "It Ain't Me, Babe" and "All Along the Watchtower."

Canada's Broadcast Standards Council deemed a Dire Straits song released 26 years ago -- "Money for Nothing" -- to be unfit for Canadian ears because it contains the word "faggot" in its lyrics. The action was based on a single complaint received by the Council.

At a ceremony during the annual MLB Civil Rights Game, between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, Carlos Santana took the opportunity to scold the states of Arizona and Georgia for their recently passed immigration laws. Santana was being honored for his civil rights activism.

Led Zeppelin IV was on the Billboard 200 chart at #166 in November, 40 years after its release. The album, which contains some of Led Zeppelin's best known songs, consistently does well on the Catalog Albums chart, where it was at #41 the same week.

Bob Seger got into the digital game, making some of his live albums available in MP3 format for the first time. Walmart got out of the game, closing down its digital downloading business.

As part of an overall restructuring of award categories, the Grammy rock categories were trimmed from seven to four. Hard Rock Performance and Heavy Metal Performance categories were merged into one, as were the Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance and Best Rock Perfomance by a Duo or Group With Vocals categories. Gone completely is Best Rock Instrumental Performance. The remaining categories are Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song, and the two new merged catergories, Best Rock Performance and Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance.

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