2013 saw a number of significant passings: political figures both respected and reviled (Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, Hugo Chavez, Ed Koch), sports heroes (Stan Musial), television and film personalities (James Gandolfini, Annette Funicello, Peter O'Toole) and wordsmiths (Roger Ebert, Elmore Leonard). However, it was in the music world where the losses often felt the most personal. Here are ten that we'll miss in 2014 and beyond.
February 14: Tim Dog, rapper ("Fuck Compton"). "On Valentine's Day, Dog was reported as having died from a diabetes-related seizure. The usual plethora of online tributes followed. Last week, however, Memphis' WREG-TV interviewed Esther Pilgrim, one of his (financial) victims. She claimed that Dog had, in fact, faked his own death to avoid paying restitution."
April 16: Scott Miller, Game Theory/Loud Family songwriter. "He will not be forgotten. In fact, it's a near certainty that future generations will discover and rediscover his work, a la Nick Drake or Chris Bell."
June 24: Alan Myers, Devo drummer. In the Los Angeles Times, former RFT scribe Randall Roberts wrote, "To call Myers a human metronome, though, is to suggest a drummer focused on keeping a steady, consistent beat. Myers could do that and more, but his internal metronome contained secret compartments, switches that could drive odd time signatures, weird breakbeats, perfectly timed chaotic bursts."
July 21: Faye Hunter, Let's Active bassist. "Raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Hunter contributed to Sneakers' In The Red and Chris Stamey's It's a Wonderful Life, before joining Mitch Easter as Let's Active's bassist. Together with teenage drummer Sara Romweber, the trio made 1983's afoot EP (featuring "Every Word Means No," a sizable college radio and MTV hit) and 1984's Cypress LP."
July 31: Maxwell's, Hoboken, N.J. bar/restaurant. At the beginning of the summer, Hoboken, N.J.'s beloved music venue Maxwell's announced that it was closing after 35 years. Literally thousands of bands had graced its tiny back room throughout the prior four decaes, from legends like Nirvana and R.E.M. to current upstarts like Screaming Females and Swearin'. On July 31, Maxwell's ended much as it began, with sets by the Bongos, Individuals and "a," all of whom had reformed specifically for the occasion. The restaurant and bar have remained open while Maxwell's ownership arranges for a buyer, and they've even had a few low-key performances in the back room. However, its days on the touring circuit are over.
August 3: Bob Reuter, St. Louis legend. The local music community was stunned when Reuter, a longtime DJ, musician, artist and enigmatic local figure, died suddenly in early August. Riverfront Times writer Jaime Lees summed him up thusly: "He said lots of nice things when nobody else was listening. He often sent encouraging words out of nowhere. He inspired the younger generation, and he made connections with scores of unlikely folks. He was difficult, but he was worth it. And his music, art and tireless documentation of the city and its people will be his legacy." In September, hundreds of Reuter's friends and admirers paid tribute at Casa Loma.
September 18: Waw Pierogi (nee Larry Baczeski), xex leader. In the late 1970s, Baczeski, a Rutgers student and Central Jersey native, formed xex, a five-piece minimal synth group. In 1980, they self-released group:xex, a fascinating and funny LP that evoked Cold War-era malaise in its own sardonic way. A few years ago, a WFMU DJ rediscovered group:xex deep in the station's record library, paving the way for a cult following and two reissues. Last summer, San Francisco-based Dark Entries Records released xex:change, a collection of tracks recorded in 1981 for a never-released second LP. Sadly, Baczeski died only a couple of months later.
October 27: Lou Reed, Velvet Underground leader and solo artist. "Without the Velvet Underground and solo albums like Berlin and Transformer, there is simply no rock music as we know it today. It is not just as if one of rock & roll's icons passed; it's as if a little bit of rock & roll itself passed, too." December 1: Lorna Donley, DA! singer/bassist. "My favorite track was 'Next to Nothing.' With its stuttering drumbeat, circling guitar lines and clipped vocals, it drew influence from the Factory and Rough Trade rosters, adding a tough, clear-eyed Midwestern perspective. It was a true buried treasure of its time."
December 17: The Best Show on WFMU radio program. After 13 years, Tom Scharpling ended his Tuesday night WFMU radio show, a three-hour mix of music, talk and comedy. It's hard to underestimate what The Best Show meant to its fans, who continue to trade lines like "Wait, whaaaat?" and "Get off my phone!" like Seinfeld quips. Scharpling and comic foil Jon Wurster spent more than a decade building and populating the fictional town of Newbridge, an odd mix of The Simpsons' Springfield and any random David Lynch movie. Scharpling and Wurster have both insisted that Newbridge will continue into 2014 and beyond. Still, for those of us who've adopted The Best Show as a weekly habit, this hurts.
Not Forgotten: George Jones, Ray Manzarek, Richie Havens, Jackie Lomax, J.J. Cale, Tony Sheridan, Reg Presley (The Troggs), Chrissy Amphlett (Divinyls), Jason Molina (Songs:Ohia, Magnolia Electric Company), Pat Fear (White Flag), Phil Ramone (producer).