In Memoriam 2021: The Musicians We Lost A list of the groundbreaking musicians, producers and journalists we lost in 2021.

In Memoriam 2021: The Musicians We Lost

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

At the end of each year, MORNING EDITION has a tradition. We hear the music of musicians we lost.

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

And today we start with someone we lost earlier this month. Michael Nesmith of The Monkees would have celebrated his 79th birthday yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYDREAM BELIEVER")

THE MONKEES: (Singing) Daydream believer and a homecoming queen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAKE UP LITTLE SUSIE")

THE EVERLY BROTHERS: (Singing) Wake up, little Susie. Wake up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TUSH")

ZZ TOP: (Singing) I've been bad. I've been good. Dallas, Texas, Hollywood.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ROLLING STONES SONG, "GET OFF MY CLOUD")

MCCAMMON: The man who laid down the beat for The Rolling Stones, drummer Charlie Watts, died this year - also Dusty Hill, the bassist for ZZ Top, and Don Everly, half of The Everly Brothers.

INSKEEP: Another drummer died in May - less famous, perhaps, than Charlie Watts, but Roger Hawkins of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section graced the recordings of Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge and Wilson Pickett.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAND OF 1000 DANCES")

WILSON PICKETT: (Singing) Na, na, na, na, na. Na, na, na, na. Na, na, na, na. Na, na, na. Na, na, na, na.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE")

DIANA ROSS AND THE SUPREMES: (Singing) Stop in the name of love before you break my heart.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LADY MARMALADE")

LABELLE: (Singing) Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?

INSKEEP: Sarah Dash of LaBelle died in September. We also heard Mary Wilson of The Supremes.

MCCAMMON: The world of Reggae lost one legend after another in 2021. We'll start with Lee "Scratch" Perry, whose foundational touch in the studio gave Jamaica some of its signature sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ZION'S BLOOD")

THE UPSETTERS: (Singing) Zion blood is flowing through my veins.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIMMER DOWN")

BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS: (Singing) Simmer down. You're licking too hot, so simmer down. Soon you'll get dropped.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLY AND ROBBIE SONG, "RETURN OF TAXI")

MCCAMMON: Bassist Robbie Shakespeare, one half of reggae's great rhythm section, Sly and Robbie. We also heard Bunny Wailer, a fundamental part of Bob Marley's band, The Wailers.

INSKEEP: Hip-hop's losses this year included emcees who brought humor to rap's early years, like Biz Markie.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUST A FRIEND")

BIZ MARKIE: (Singing) You, you got what I need. But you say he just a friend. But you say he just a friend. Oh, baby, you...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HUMPTY DANCE")

DIGITAL UNDERGROUND: (Rapping) So just let me introduce myself. My name is Humpty, pronounced with a umpty (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAN YOU FEEL IT?")

FAT BOYS: (Rapping) Grab up a girl, and get on the floor. And listen to Markie Dee's rhymes galore.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALPHABET AEROBICS")

BLACKALICIOUS: (Rapping) Artificial amateurs aren't at all amazing. Analytically, I assault, animate things. Broken barriers bounded by the bomb beat.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PARTY UP")

DMX: (Rapping) Y'all going to make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here. Y'all going to make me go all out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MR. GET DOUGH")

DRAKEO THE RULER: (Rapping) Keeping it clammy, you know we riding on stocks. And we in Rosemead, so yes I had to bring the box. Stanleys out. You know they had to bring the cops. We go on high speed chases, couldn't get me if I'm God. But I'm not.

INSKEEP: Just a few weeks ago at the age of 28, Drakeo The Ruler was killed. We also heard from DMX, Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, Prince Markie Dee of The Fat Boys and Shock G of Digital Underground.

MCCAMMON: And there were quite a few behind-the-scenes producers we lost in 2021. We'll start with one of the hitmakers from the Bad Boy Records family, Chucky Thompson. He died of complications from COVID-19 in August.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIG POPPA")

THE NOTORIOUS B I G: (Singing) I love it when you call me Big Poppa. Throw your hands in the air if you's a true player.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BE MY BABY")

THE RONETTES: (Singing) Be my, be my babe. Be my little baby. My one and only babe. Save me, my darling.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWO OUT OF THREE AIN'T BAD")

MEAT LOAF: (Singing) Don't be sad 'cause two out of three ain't bad.

INSKEEP: We heard there from Meat Loaf's producer Jim Steinman and also Hall of Fame production work from Phil Spector, whose legacy as a musical force was destroyed when he was convicted of the murder of Lana Clarkson.

MCCAMMON: Phil Spector is not the only musician on this list with a complicated legacy. James Levine led New York's Metropolitan Opera for 40 years, but left in disgrace after multiple sexual assault allegations.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERFORMANCE OF WAGNER'S "RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN’T IT A PRETTY NIGHT")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) I aim to leave this valley someday and find out for myself. To sell all the tall buildings and all the street lights.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNIDENTIFIED LOUIS ANDRIESSEN SONG)

MCCAMMON: That's a piece by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen. He died this summer - also the work of Carlisle Floyd, considered by many the father of American opera.

INSKEEP: In 2021, the world lost one of the pioneers of jazz fusion, Chick Corea.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHICK COREA AND RETURN TO FOREVER SONG, "SPAIN")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CACHITA")

JOHNNY PACHECO: (Singing in Spanish).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VOLVER, VOLVER")

VICENTE FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INFILE (AO VIVO)")

MARILIA MENDONCA: (Singing in Spanish).

INSKEEP: Brazilian singer Marilia Mendonca was just 26 when she died in a plane crash in November. We also lost Vicente Fernandez, the king of ranchera music, and the godfather of salsa, Johnny Pacheco.

MCCAMMON: Country storyteller Tom T. Hall died in August.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FASTER HORSES (THE COWBOY AND THE POET)")

TOM T HALL: (Singing) I knew I had to ask him about the mysteries of life. He spit between his boots, and he replied, it's faster horses, younger women...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DANCE A LITTLE CLOSER")

NANCI GRIFFITH: (Singing) Dance a little closer to me. Dance a little closer now. Dance a little closer tonight.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKY TOP")

OSBORNE BROTHERS: (Singing) Rocky Top, you'll always be home, sweet home to me. Good old Rocky Top...

(SOUNDBITE OF THE CHIEFTAINS' "LOTS OF DROPS OF BRANDY")

MCCAMMON: Paddy Moloney brought his tin whistle and the folk music of Ireland around the world with The Chieftains. He died in October. And music there from bluegrass legend Sonny Osborne and singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith.

INSKEEP: And finally, we could give his own category, fill this entire segment with the music of Stephen Sondheim, who helped create beloved musicals from "Sunday In The Park With George" to "Into The Woods" and won just about every major award an artist or musician can win, some of them several times.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVE ON")

BERNADETTE PETERS: (Singing) Look at all the things you've done for me - opened up my eyes, taught me how to sing, notice every tree...

MANDY PATINKIN: (Singing) Notice every tree...

PETERS: (Singing) Understand the light.

PATINKIN: (Singing) Understand the light. I want to move on. I want to explore the light.

MCCAMMON: Those were just some of the musicians we lost in 2021.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Our theme music was inspired by BJ Leiderman, who thankfully is very much still with us.

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