A Look Back at Musicians/Entertainers Who Died in 2021

Rock Cellar Magazine StaffCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

The year is drawing to a close. As we all look ahead to 2022 (and hopefully a return to more of a “normal” way of life that the COVID-19 pandemic has rendered a challenge since Spring 2020), it’s time to reflect upon those we lost this past year. In addition to everything else going on, 2021 brought with it the deaths of several music and entertainment icons, as well as others whose deaths were covered here at Rock Cellar.

Below, a chronological list of those deaths we covered on the site (click each hyperlink to read each individual news story).

May these artists and entertainers — as well as everybody else the world over who passed away in 2021 — rest in peace.

Gerry Marsden of Gerry & the Pacemakers — Jan. 7

Gerry Marsden (Photo: Vice on YouTube)
Gerry Marsden (Photo: Vice on YouTube)

The legendary front man of Gerry and the Pacemakers passed away at age 78 after a “short illness,” according to the Guardian.

Siegfried Fischbacher — Jan. 13

siegfried fischbacher

Fischbacher, half of the legendary illusionist duo and Las Vegas mainstay Siegfried and Roy, passed away at the age of 81 after a fight with pancreatic cancer.

Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls — Jan. 15

new york dolls sylvain sylvain

The rocker, whose real name was Sylvain Mizrahi, had been battling cancer for a while, according to a message posted by his wife on Facebook, announcing the news of his death.

Phil Spector — Jan. 16

phil spector

Spector died of natural causes while in prison at age 81.

Randy Parton, Younger Brother of Dolly Parton — Jan. 21

Dolly Parton and Randy Parton (Photo: DollyParton.com)
Dolly Parton and Randy Parton (Photo: DollyParton.com)

Randy passed away at the age of 67 after a fight with cancer, his older sister announced on social media. He was a frequent musical collaborator with Dolly over the years.

Beatles animator Ron Campbell — Jan. 22

ron campbell beatles illustrator

In addition to being an animator for the film version of Yellow Submarine — undeniably one of the most vivid and memorable (and quirkiest) projects that John, Paul, George, and Ringo got up to over the course of their time together — Campbell was the director of the Saturday morning Beatles cartoon series.

Larry King — Jan. 23

The legendary talk show host died at 87, with Variety noting at the time that he had been hospitalized since December 2020 with COVID-19.

Hal Holbrook — Jan. 23

hal holbrook

Holbrook, an Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor who delighted audiences for decades, passed away at the age of 95.

Cloris Leachman — Jan. 27

cloris leachman pic

The legendary actress/comedian, who entertained generations with her roles in films such as Young Frankenstein and The Last Picture Show, among many others, passed away of natural causes at age 94.

Hilton Valentine of the Animals — Jan. 29

Hilton Valentine (Photo: Germaine Valentine)
Hilton Valentine (Photo: Germaine Valentine)

The founding guitarist of the Animals, Valentine passed away at the age of 77, with the Animals’ record label, Abkco, issuing a lengthy statement in remembrance.

Dustin Diamond — Feb. 1

dustin diamond

Diamond, 44, who played Samuel “Screech” Powers on Saved By the Bell, died after a stage 4 cancer fight.

Christopher Plummer — Feb. 5

christopher plummer rip

Plummer, whose career spanned seven decades, died at 91, with Deadline noting that Plummer passed peacefully at his home in Connecticut, with Elaine Taylor, his wife and true best friend for 53 years by his side.

Mary Wilson of the Supremes — Feb. 8

mary wilson supremes feature pic

Wilson, a co-founder of the Supremes, died “suddenly” at her home in Las Vegas. She was 76.

Chick Corea — Feb. 9

chick corea rip

The renowned jazz composer/keyboardist died at 79 after a short fight with cancer.

Rupert Neve — Feb. 12

Rupert Neve (Photo: Joshua Thomas)
Rupert Neve (Photo: Joshua Thomas)

A revolutionary innovator and figure in the audio recording industry, Rupert Neve died at 94 of “non-COVID pneumonia and heart failure,” per his estate.

Bunny Wailer — March 2

bunny wailer (Photo: @TheWailersOfficial)
bunny wailer (Photo: @TheWailersOfficial)

Neville Livingston, who grew to become a reggae legend under the name Bunny Wailer, passed away at 73.

Lou Ottens, creator of the audio cassette tape — March 6

Lou Ottens RIP cassette tape inventor

The Dutch engineer, whose pioneering work developing the audio cassette tape revolutionized the process of making and storing audio recordings, died at 94.

George Segal — March 24

George Segal (Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com)
George Segal (Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com)

Said his wife, Sonia of the passing of the acting/comedy icon at 87: “The family is devastated to announce that this morning George Segal passed away due to complications from bypass surgery.”

“I am saddened by the fact that my close friend and client of many years has passed away,” said Segal’s manager Abe Hoch. “I will miss his warmth, humor, camaraderie and friendship. He was a wonderful human.”

Jessica Walter — March 24

Jessica Walter

The actor, whose career spanned five decades and earned her acclaim and multiple Emmy nominations for roles including Lucille Bluth in the comedy series Arrested Development, passed away in her sleep at 80.

Malcolm Cecil — March 28

Malcolm Cecil (Photo: Bob Moog Foundation)
Malcolm Cecil (Photo: Bob Moog Foundation)

Engineer/synthesizer pioneer and Stevie Wonder producer Malcolm Cecil died at 84 after a “long illness.”

DMX — April 9

DMX (Photo: hurricanehank / Shutterstock.com)
DMX (Photo: hurricanehank / Shutterstock.com)

Earl Simmons, the acclaimed, Grammy-nominated rapper known for numerous hits and a particularly gritty and raspy vocal delivery, passed away after suffering a “catastrophic cardiac arrest” a few days earlier. He was 50.

Rusty Young of Poco — April 14

Rusty Young RIP (Photo: Blue Elan Records)

The California-based musician/guitarist, known as a co-founder of the country rock/Americana band Poco, died at the age of 75 after suffering a heart attack.

Jim Steinman — April 19

jim steinman

The lyricist, producer and songwriter known for massive success over the years with acts including Meat Loaf, Celine Dion, Bonnie Tyler and more, died at the age of 73.

Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers — April 20

Les McKeown (Photo: Facebook.com/LesMcKeownUK)
Les McKeown (Photo: Facebook.com/LesMcKeownUK)

McKeown, the lead singer of Scottish pop/rock band Bay City Rollers during the group’s peak in the 1970s, died at 65.

Al Schmitt — April 26

Al Schmitt (Photo: https://www.facebook.com/al.schmitt)
Al Schmitt (Photo: https://www.facebook.com/al.schmitt)

The producer/engineer die at 91. Throughout his time in music, Schmitt was the recipient of 20 Grammy Awards in recognition of his work with acts including Steely Dan, Toto, Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole, Paul McCartney, Ray Charles and many more.

Llloyd Price — May 3

Price, who was responsible for writing classic 1950s R&B/pop hits like “Stagger Lee” and “Personality” and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, passed away at 88.

Charles Grodin — May 18

The acclaimed actor known for his roles in motion pictures such as The Heartbreak Kid, Midnight Run, Heaven Can Wait and the Beethoven series of family films, died at the age of 86.

B.J. Thomas — May 29

B.J. Thomas RIP

The singer, who hit it big in the 1960s and ’70s, died at 78 after a battle with stage 4 lung cancer.

Byron Berline — July 11

Berline, known for his fiddle work alongside icons including Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and more, passed away at 77 according to his family.

Biz Markie — July 16

Markie, the “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop,” as Rolling Stone referred to him in a reverent remembrance piece, was just 57.

Robby Steinhardt of Kansas — July 17

Steinhardt, violinist/vocalist of Kansas for two stints (from 1973-1982 and again from 1997-2006), died at 71 due to complications from pancreatitis.

John Hutchinson — July 24

Hutchinson, a jazz guitarist who had a few separate stints in David Bowie’s band and played a key role in the conception of “Space Oddity,” died after a “long illness.”

Drummer Joey Jordison — July 26

Joey Jordison

One of the founding members of Iowa-based metal band Slipknot, Jordison passed away in his sleep at 46.

Dusty Hill of ZZ Top — July 28

ZZ Top's Dusty Hill (TDC Photography / Shutterstock.com)
ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill (TDC Photography / Shutterstock.com)

The Texas rock trio’s bassist, Dusty Hill died at the age of 72.

Paul Cotton of Poco — Aug. 3

Cotton, who made a name for himself as the guitarist/singer of Los Angeles-based country rock/Americana band Poco after taking over for Jim Messina in 1970, died at 78.

Keyboardist/vocalist Mike Finnigan — Aug. 11

mike finnigan namm interview

The many noteworthy acts Finnigan served as a session musician and/or touring musician include Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Michael McDonald, Peter Frampton, Cher, Ringo Starr, Whitesnake’s David Coverdale and many more.

Nanci Griffith — Aug. 13

Griffith, the folk/country singer/songwriter known for classics such as “Once in a Very Blue Moon,” “Outbound Train” and “Love at the Five and Dime,” passed away at the age of 68.

Tom T. Hall — Aug. 20

Known lovingly as country music’s “Storyteller,” Tom T. Hall (who penned the classic tracks “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” “That’s How I Got to Memphis,” among others) passed way at 85.

Don Everly — Aug. 24

One-half of the legendary singing duo the Everly Brothers, Don Everly passed away at the age of 84.

Charlie Watts — Aug. 24

Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones (Photo: Terry Murden / Shutterstock.com)
Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones (Photo: Terry Murden / Shutterstock.com)

The legendary Rolling Stones drummer passed away peacefully at a hospital in London at age 80.

Ron Bushy of Iron Butterfly — Aug. 29

Bushy died at the age of 79 at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was with family when he died, and cause of death was reportedly esophageal cancer.

Ed Asner — Aug. 29

Ed Asner ( Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com)
Ed Asner ( Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com)

The legendary comedian died at the age of 91.

Lee “Scratch” Perry — Aug. 29

Lee "Scratch" Perry (Photo: Facebook/perryscratch)
Lee “Scratch” Perry (Photo: Facebook/perryscratch)

One of the foremost influences and icons in Jamaican/dancehall and reggae music and a central figure in its history, Perry passed away at the age of 85.

Norm MacDonald — Sept. 14

norm macdonald

The irreverent comedian known for a unique style and a run on Saturday Night Live died at 61 after a private cancer battle.

Alan Lancaster of Status Quo — Sept. 26

Founding member and bassist of the band Status Quo, Lancaster died at 75 after a lengthy battle with multiple sclerosis, per the NME.

Astro of UB40 — Nov. 6

Per the BBC:

British vocalist and former member of UB40 Terence Wilson, better known by his stage name Astro, has died aged 64.

Astro, who performed in the reggae pop band for more than 30 years, died after a short illness, his current band confirmed.

Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues — Nov. 11

Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues (Jim Vallee / Shutterstock.com)
Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues (Jim Vallee / Shutterstock.com)

The drummer and co-founder of the Moodies died at 80.

Stephen Sondheim — Nov. 26

Per Deadline:

Stephen Sondheim, one of the giants of Broadway songwriting, died early Friday at his home in Roxbury, CT. He was 91.

Attorney F. Richard Pappas, announced the death, which he described as sudden. Sondheim celebrated Thanksgiving with friends just a day ago, Pappas said.

Sondheim’s catalog includes such works as “Company” (1970), “Follies” (1971), “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Pacific Overtures” (1976), “Sweeney Todd” (1979), “Merrily We Roll Along” (1981), “Sunday in the Park With George” (1984) and “Into the Woods” (1987).

Robbie Shakespeare — Dec. 8

Robbie Shakespeare in 2018 (Photo: YouTube/ ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH)
Robbie Shakespeare in 2018 (Photo: YouTube/ ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH)

The Jamaican bassist, producer and reggae icon whose work as half of the production and rhythm section duo Sly & Robbie made him a legend, passed away at the age of 68.

David Lasley — Dec. 9

david lasley

Lasley, a renowned singer/songwriter/recording artist known for 24 years of work with James Taylor in addition to time spent with Boz Scaggs, Bonnie Raitt, Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and more, passed away at the age of 74.

Michael Nesmith — Dec. 10

Michael Nesmith (Photo: Alex Battaglia)
Michael Nesmith (Photo: Alex Battaglia)

Nesmith, singer/guitarist of the Monkees, died at 78, according to a message sent out by his family.

Bassist/musician Phil Chen — Dec. 14

Phil Chen (Eugene Powers/Shutterstock)
Phil Chen (Eugene Powers/Shutterstock)

Chen, a studio pro known for work with Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck, the Doors’ Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger and more, died at 75.

Leonard “Hub” Hubbard of the Roots — Dec. 16

Hubbard, the longtime bassist for the Roots, died at age 62.

John Madden — Dec. 28

NFL legend, coach, broadcast and icon, Madden passed away unexpectedly at age 85.

Betty White — Dec. 31

betty white rip

The beloved actor/comedian/legend passed away just weeks before her 100th birthday.

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