Rockers We’ve Lost in 2014
A number of great classic-rock artists passed away in 2014. Their influence ranges from early rock ‘n’ roll pioneers to members of bands that helped shape rock music as we know it. These are brief tributes to the artists and contributions made to the history of classic rock.
The frontman for the '60s group Jay & the Americans passed away at the age of 69 after a struggle with liver cancer. Even though Traynor left the band shortly after its first hit, 1962's 'She Cried,' they scored a number of Top 40 songs through 1970.
Saul Zaentz, best known as a movie producer, died at the age of 92 after battling Alzheimer's. Zaentz was notorious in music circles as the owner of Fantasy Records, which distributed Creedence Clearwater Revival's albums. After years of lawsuits, CCR frontman John Fogerty penned an angry song about Zaentz in the '80s.
Phil Everly, one-half of the pioneering rock duo the Everly Brothers, died of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Jan. 3. He was 74. Along with his brother Don, Phil Everly was one of the architects of rock music in the '50s. The duo scored a number of hits, influencing everyone from the Beatles to Simon & Garfunkel.
Gary Grimshaw, a poster artist whose psychedelic designs filled Detroit's proto-punk scene in the late '60s, died at the age of 67. Grimshaw was most associated with the MC5, whose image and aesthetic he helped define during his friendship with the band.
Dennis "Fergie" Frederiksen
Former Toto, Trillion and Le Roux singer Dennis "Fergie" Frederiksen died on Jan. 18 after a nearly four-year-long battle with cancer. Frederiksen sang on Toto’s 1984 ‘Isolation’ album, which featured the hit single ‘Stranger in Town.’
Freddie "Fingers" Lee
Freddie "Fingers" Lee, a fixture on the U.K. music scene, passed away on Jan. 13 at the age of 76. He had suffered two strokes within the past decade and had recently contracted pneumonia. Lee played with Screaming Lord Sutch, Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde, and was pals with the pre-fame Beatles, Ian Hunter and many of rock's pioneers.
Steven Fromholz, a Texas-based singer-songwriter who had worked with Stephen Stills and Michael Nesmith, died on Jan. 19 after a hunting accident. He was 68. Fromholz was one of the artists responsible for helping launch the Outlaw Country movement of the ’70s. He briefly toured with Manassas but left before the band made its record.
A true icon of American music, Pete Seeger passed away on Jan. 27 at the age of 94. As a member of the Weavers, he helped popularize folk music in the '40s and '50s. Red Scare blacklisting threatened his career, but he fought through it and continued leading the country in song and fighting for progressive causes for the next 60 years. On his banjo head, he had inscribed the phrase "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."
Ray Kennedy's career began as a teenager playing big band jazz saxophone in the early-'60s, eventually becoming a blue-eyed soul singer. While his career in front of the mic had several false starts, he gained recognition as a songwriter (the Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac) and serving as a side musician for Aerosmith and the Michael Schenker Group. He died on Feb. 16 at the age of 67.
Bob Casale, who passed away on Feb. 17 from heart failure, was the guitarist in Devo, the pioneering New Wave synthpop act that struck gold in 1980 with the hit single 'Whip It.' He also worked behind the scenes, engineering several of the group's albums.
Kelly Holland died on Feb. 24 at 52 from complications due to an abdominal infection. He was the lead singer of Cry of Love, a southern rock band that had a handful of Mainstream Rock hits in the early-'to-mid-'90s. After leaving the group, he played in a series of bands in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C.
From 1954 to 1962, Franny Beecher was the lead guitarist for rock n' roll pioneers Bill Haley & the Comets, playing on classics like 'Rip It Up' and 'See You Later, Alligator,' but not '(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock.' Before that, he spent several years in Benny Goodman's orchestra and various country bands. He died on Feb. 24 at the age of 92.