In Memoriam 2020: The Musicians We Lost The sheer volume of loss felt by the music world in 2020 is almost overwhelming. Here is NPR's tribute to dozens of the musicians — founders and innovators across genres — who died this year.
NPR logo

In Memoriam 2020: The Musicians We Lost

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/950086106/952172153" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In Memoriam 2020: The Musicians We Lost

In Memoriam 2020: The Musicians We Lost

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/950086106/952172153" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Every year at this time, we pay tribute to some of the musicians we lost with a montage of moments from their work. To name just a few, we're about to hear Joseph Shabalala, founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the singer Helen Reddy, jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath, the soul singer Betty Wright and one of the architects of rock 'n' roll, Little Richard.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TUTTI FRUTTI")

LITTLE RICHARD: (Singing) Whop bop-a-lu a whop bam bam, tutti frutti, oh, Rudy (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IL BUONO, IL BRUTTO, IL CATTIVO")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Vocalizing).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GAMBLER")

KENNY ROGERS: (Singing) You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA")

THE CHARLIE DANIELS BAND: (Singing) The devil went down to Georgia. He was looking for a soul to steal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIAMONDS ON THE SOLES OF HER SHOES")

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO: (Singing in non-English language).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRESSURE DROP")

TOOTS AND THE MAYTALS: (Singing) I say pressure drop, oh, pressure, oh, yeah, pressure about to drop on you.

(SOUNDBITE OF VAN HALEN SONG, "ERUPTION")

(SOUNDBITE OF LYNN HARRELL AND PHILHARMONIA ORCHESTRA AND VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY PERFORMANCE OF DVORAK'S "CELLO CONCERTO IN B MINOR, OP. 104 - III. FINALE")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DER BETTELSTUDENT (OPERETTE IN 3 AKTEN)")

MIRELLA FRENI: (Singing in non-English language).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAZ VA AVAZ")

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN: (Singing in non-English language).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NO SUNSHINE")

BILL WITHERS: (Singing) Ain't no sunshine when she's gone. It's not warm when she's away.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW")

JOHNNY NASH: (Singing) I can see clearly now the rain is gone.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY MANDEL AND MICHAEL ALTMAN SONG, "SUICIDE IS PAINLESS")

(SOUNDBITE OF KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI'S "THRENODY TO THE VICTIMS OF HIROSHIMA")

(SOUNDBITE OF UNIDENTIFIED SONG)

(SOUNDBITE OF THE TONY RICE UNIT'S "MANZANITA")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLACK MAGIC WOMAN")

FLEETWOOD MAC: (Singing) Got a black magic woman.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CLEAN UP WOMAN")

BETTY WRIGHT: (Singing) The clean up woman will wipe his blues away. She'll give him plenty lovin' 24 hours a day.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I AM WOMAN")

HELEN REDDY: (Singing) I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MR. BOJANGLES")

JERRY JEFF WALKER: (Singing) I knew a man Bojangles and he danced for you in worn out shoes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOR THE NIGHT")

POP SMOKE: (Singing) If I tell you once, won't tell you twice. I'm real discreet, like a thief in the night.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREAKS COME OUT AT NIGHT")

WHODINI: (Rapping) Discos don't open till after dark and it ain't till 12 till the party really starts. And I always had to be home by 10, right before the fun was about to begin.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STEP INTO THE REALM")

THE ROOTS: (Rapping) Step into the realm. You're bound to get caught. And from this worldly life, you'll soon depart. Yo, I walk across this world that's deceptive, beats are perfected, the ghetto's infested.

(SOUNDBITE OF MCCOY TYNER'S "THE GREETING")

(SOUNDBITE OF JIMMY HEATH QUINTET'S "GINGERBREAD BOY")

(SOUNDBITE OF GARY PEACOCK AND MARILYN CRISPELL'S "BASS SOLO")

(SOUNDBITE OF UNIDENTIFIED SONG)

INSKEEP: This year, the coronavirus took the lives of many great musicians, among them the country star Charley Pride, New Orleans patriarch Ellis Marsalis, songwriter John Prine and saxophonist Lee Konitz. We honor them now.

(SOUNDBITE OF LEE KONITZ'S "KARY'S TRACE")

(SOUNDBITE OF MANU DIBANGO'S "SOUL MAKOSSA")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF I HAD A HAMMER")

TRINI LOPEZ: (Singing) If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNIDENTIFIED SONG)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STACY'S MOM")

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE: (Singing) Stacy's mom has got it going on. Stacy's mom has got it going on.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KISS AN ANGEL GOOD MORNING")

CHARLEY PRIDE: (Singing) You've got to kiss an angel good morning and let her know you think about her when you're gone.

(SOUNDBITE OF WALLACE RONEY'S "DAAHOUD")

(SOUNDBITE OF ELLIS MARSALIS' "DR. JAZZ")

(SOUNDBITE OF BUCKY PIZZARELLI'S "SLAMERINO")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO IN THERE")

JOHN PRINE: (Singing) You know that old trees just grow stronger and old rivers grow wilder every day. Old people just grow lonesome waiting for someone to say hello in there.

INSKEEP: Our musical tribute to some of the artists we lost in 2020, produced by Tom Cole, with help from MORNING EDITION's Phil Harrell and NPR researcher Jane Gilman.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO IN THERE")

PRINE: (Singing) So if you're walking down the street sometime and spot some hollow ancient eyes...

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.