The case could certainly be made that 2023 hasn’t exactly been a kind year toward musicians.
Of course, we still need to review the facts. In most countries, COVID-19-related precautions and restrictions were only lifted in 2022. Plus, many of the legendary musicians we’ve come to respect and admire as children and adults are now among the aging population. This isn’t to say there weren’t also some untimely deaths…
Nevertheless, we like to focus on the positive and celebrate the lives of those who’ve contributed greatly to music and the world at large. Here are some notable musicians that died in 2023.
1939 – 2023
There are few figures as influential as Tina “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” Turner in musical history. Rising to prominence as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Turner would go on to launch an insanely successful solo career.
Turner originally entered the music scene in the late 1950s, finding early success in the early to mid-1960s, and going mainstream in the mid to late 1960s, continuing well into the 1970s.
The 80s, however, would be especially good to her, with a string of unforgettable hits like “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” “Private Dancer,” “The Best,” and “I Don’t Wanna Fight,” among many others.
Turner had multiple life-threatening illnesses, including high blood pressure, kidney damage, stroke, and intestinal cancer, to name a few, with some issues cropping up as early as 1978.
Turner passed away on May 24, 2023.
1944 – 2023
A case could be made that Jeff Beck is one of the unsung guitar heroes of a generation. As a virtuoso guitarist Yardbird alumnus – a distinction he shares only with Clapton and Page – Beck would go on to collaborate with the likes of Rod Stewart (The Jeff Beck Group), Jon Bon Jovi, Roger Waters, Ozzy Osbourne, Eric Clapton, and many others throughout his lifetime.
Lest you think him less than Clapton or Page, in the guitar community, Beck is largely considered one of the most creative guitarists ever to exist, with an immediately identifiable signature sound. Many even say he’s unmatched.
If you aren’t familiar with Beck’s work, it’s time to explore “Hi Ho Silver Lining,” “I Ain’t Superstitious,” “People Get Ready,” “Led Boots,” “Heart Full of Soul,” “Freeway Jam,” and “Blue Wind.”
Beck passed away of bacterial meningitis on January 10, 2023, at 78.
1950 – 2023
Burt Bacharach was one of the most influential songwriters, composers, record producers, and pianists of all time.
Bacharach wrote songs for the likes of Perry Como, Dusty Springfield, and Tom Jones, among many others. He also collaborated with Elvis Costello (one of the collaborations he’s probably best known for – also see the 1999 comedy film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me), Ronald Isley, and Daniel Tashian, to name a few.
Bacharach won many Academy, Golden Globe, and Grammy Awards, and was nominated for many more.
See “Walk on By,” “The Look of Love,” “Alfie,” “Mexican Divorce,” “Knowing When to Leave,” and of course, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”
1952 – 2023
Ryuichi Sakamoto was a Japanese composer, record producer, and actor. He is well known for his work with Yellow Magic Orchestra as well as his solo works.
What is missing from most mentions of Sakamoto (we’re not sure why, maybe people just don’t know) is his enormous influence on video game music. Sakamoto contributed to soundtracks for Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and even Final Fantasy, some of the most influential video game franchises in existence.
Sure, Nobuo Uematsu and Koji Kondo may be the most prominent figures associated with these titles, but Sakamoto’s work isn’t anything to sneeze at.
Have a listen to “Tong Poo,” “Bibo No Aozora,” “Technopolis,” and “Rain.”
Lisa Marie Presley
1968 – 2023
It doesn’t feel all that long ago that singer Lisa Marie Presley’s questionable romantic chemistry with Michael Jackson was the talk of the town. Unfortunately, as of 2023, she is no longer.
Lisa Marie Presley was born to the legendary Elvis and Priscilla Presley. With the passing of her grandparents and great-grandparents, she became the sole heir to Elvis’ estate.
As a musical artist, she would release three albums – To Whom It May Concern, Now What, and Storm & Grace. Have a listen to “Dirty Laundry,” “I’ll Figure It Out,” “Nobody Noticed It,” “Storm & Grace,” and “Idiot.”
1938 – 2023
Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist Gordon Lightfoot is considered one of Canada’s greatest songwriters. He found international success and even played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of folk-pop in the 60s and 70s.
Lightfoot is well remembered for hits like “For Lovin’ Me,” “Early Morning Rain,” “Ribbon of Darkness,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Carefree Highway,” “Sundown,” and “Rainy Day People” among others.
Lightfoot died of natural causes.
1941 – 2023
Singer-songwriter and occasional actor David Crosby initially found success as a member of The Byrds and continued to write and perform with the supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young). The group is credited with popularizing the “California sound” of the 70s. Crosby’s prolific contribution to music also includes eight solo albums.
Some of his best works include “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Laughing,” “Long Time Gone,” “Teach Your Children,” “Our House,” “Judy Blue Eyes,” and “Carry Me.”
Crosby died on January 18, 2023, at the age of 81. Though officially his cause of death has been attributed to a long-standing illness, unofficially his death came as a surprise to colleagues and friends who described it as “sudden.”
1965 – 2023
Johnny “Blackie Onassis” Rowan was the drummer of Urge Overkill. The band’s rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” appeared in the Quentin Tarantino crime / drama film Pulp Fiction, and that is quite possibly their greatest claim to fame.
That said, Urge Overkill also opened for Nirvana on their Nevermind tour and had a bit of a hit with “Sister Havana” as well.
Blackie Onassis’ cause of death is unknown.
1940 – 2023
Brazilian samba and bossa nova singer and songwriter Astrud Gilberto played a significant role in popularizing “The Girl from Ipanema,” a Brazilian jazz and bossa nova staple. Her recording even earned her Grammy Award for Record of the Year.
Gilberto would remain active in her music career from the early 60s up to the early 2000s.
You may also want to check out “The Gentle Rain,” “So Nice,” “A Certain Sadness,” “How Insensitive,” “Once I Loved,” and “The Shadow of Your Smile.”
1940 – 2023
American songwriter Cynthia Weil is best known for writing an array of songs alongside her husband Barry Mann.
Weil was a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, and she was influential in molding the sound of rock and roll in the 60s besides.
Weil will be remembered for penning hits like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “Just a Little Lovin’,” “Home of the Brave,” “Don’t Know Much,” “Here You Come Again,” and “On Broadway,” among others.
Weil died in her home on June 1, 2023, aged 82.
1962 – 2023
American drummer Kirk Arrington is best remembered for his work with Metal Church, which got its start in 1980. He left the band as early as 2006 for health issues resulting from diabetes.
Metal Church found a bit of a footing in the 80s musical landscape that was more favorable towards glam metal and has been considered a key influence in shaping power metal as well.
Metal Church remains active as a five-piece, in their third official run beginning 2012 after two hiatuses sandwiched in between.
1964 – 2023
English musician Andy Rourke is best known as the bassist of The Smiths, an 80s indie rock band. After the band broke up in 1987, Rourke went on to work with Morrissey and recorded with The Pretenders and Sinéad O’Connor. Later in his career, he would work with the likes of Freebass and D.A.R.K.
Rourke died of pancreatic cancer on May 19, 2023.
The Smiths’ hits include “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” “How Soon Is Now?,” “Back to the Old House,” “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” and “The Charming Man.”
1959 – 2023
English punk rocker, heavy metal bassist, and singer Algy Ward was a part of the Australian rock band The Saints. He would later join The Damned and founded Tank, part of the new wave of British Heavy Metal in 1980.
The three distinct periods of his career all have high points, but he will probably be remembered best for The Saint’s second record, Eternally Yours, even though it was kind of panned upon its release.
1986 – 2023
Jordan Blake was the first vocalist for the post-hardcore outfit A Skylit Drive. Blake fronted the band between 2005 and 2007 and joined the original members in January 2022 for an anniversary celebration.
Blake’s life was unfortunately cut short, and the cause of death has yet to be announced.
1951 – 2023
Canadian guitarist and vocalist Tim Bachman will be remembered best for his work with Canadian rock bands Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Brave Belt.
All of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s catalog is worth a listen, though if you have yet to hear “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” “Roll On Down the Highway,” and “Takin’ Care of Business,” start there.
1960 – 2023
English singer Mark Stewart was one of the founding members of The Pop Group, and he’s considered a pioneer of industrial music and post-punk.
If you need to brush up on your Pop Group, then check out “Mad Truth,” “Where There’s a Will,” and “Justice.”
1976 – 2023
Irish musician, singer, composer, and producer Mark Sheehan was a member of the boy band Mytown. In 2001, he would switch gears and co-founded the alt-rock band The Script.
Not much has been announced regarding Sheehan’s death, which was due to an illness that has yet to be disclosed.
1953 – 2023
Scottish musician and multi-instrumentalist Ian Bairnson will always be remembered as one of the key members of The Alan Parsons Project. Bairnson was also a member of Pilot, and he lent his guitar-playing talent to Kate Bush for four albums too.
Bairnson may be known best as a guitarist, but he also played keyboards and the saxophone.
1951 – 2023
Musician, songwriter, producer, and bassist John Regan was a member of Ace Frehley’s Frehley’s Comet from 1984 to 1990. His longest stint, however, was with Peter Frampton from 1979 to 2011.
Regan also recorded with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Robin Trower, Billy Idol, David Lee Roth, and David Bowie, among others.
1977 – 2023
“S Club… gonna show you how…”
If the untimely death of S Club 7’s Paul Cattermole doesn’t make you a little teary-eyed, we’re not sure what will.
Sure, some said S Club 7 was little more than a “Spice Girls clone,” but those who remember them usually remember them fondly.
It might be time for a little S Club binge, so why not go with “Never Had a Dream Come True,” “Reach,” “Have You Ever,” “Don’t Stop Movin’,” and “Natural.”
1963 – 2023
American musician Vivian Trimble was the keyboardist of Luscious Jackson. She would also participate in a couple of side projects – Kostars and Dusty Trails. Trimble, unfortunately, passed of cancer on April 4, 2023.
1963 – 2023
Wayne Swinny was one of the founders and guitarists of the Memphis rock band Saliva (with heavy nu-metal influences and shades of Korn), and the last of the original members to pass on.
Swinny died of a brain hemorrhage on March 22, 2023, at the age of 59.
1951 – 2023
American singer, songwriter, and musician Bobby Caldwell had a prolific career as a solo artist and became well-known for his versatile, soulful vocal style. Over the course of his career, he would sing everything from R&B and smooth jazz to standards and much more.
As a songwriter, Caldwell ended up writing hits for the likes of Peter Cetera and Amy Grant.
Caldwell’s tracks have been sampled by countless R&B and hip-hop artists, which will likely continue to keep him in mainstream consciousness posthumously.
Caldwell died on March 14, 2023.
1945 – 2023
American musician and songwriter Jim Gordon kept busy as a session drummer during the 60s and 70s and will be remembered best as the drummer for the supergroup Derek and the Dominos.
Gordon’s life wasn’t exactly trouble-free. Due to an episode related to undiagnosed schizophrenia, Gordon ended up murdering his mother, becoming a convicted murderer. Gordon’s life would end in prison on March 13, 2023.
1965 – 2023
Jim Durkin was the guitarist and founder of the progressive thrash metal band Dark Angel. The band was a proponent of California thrash metal through the 80s and 90s, alongside Metallica, Slayer, and the like.
Dark Angel originally broke up in 1992, reuniting between 2002 and 2005, and again in 2013 until the present day. Durkin would stay with the band until his death.
One of Dark Angel’s shining moments is 1986’s Darkness Descends.
1933 – 2023
American jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter initially found success with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He would then go on to join Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet and co-found Weather Report.
Numerous Shorter compositions have become jazz standards, and Shorter earned 12 Grammy Awards during his lifetime.
Have a listen to “Infant Eyes,” “Witch Hunt,” and “Virgo.”
1966 – 2023
English musician and record producer Steve Mackey was the bassist of Pulp, and over the course of his career, he would produce the likes of The Long Blondes, Arcade Fire, and M.I.A. too.
Mackey died of an undisclosed illness on March 2, 2023, at 56 years old. He had been in the hospital for three months leading up to his death.
See “Underwear,” “Razzmatazz,” “Mis-Shapes,” “Babies,” and “The Fear.”
1928 – 2023
American composer, conductor, and oboist Gerald Fried is best known for the scores he contributed to TV and films. Fried composed music for various popular 60s and 70s TV series including Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and Gilligan’s Island, among many others.
Fried also got to collaborate with the immortal Quincy Jones. He died on February 17, 2023, of pneumonia shortly after his 95th birthday.
1975 – 2023
Brian “Brizz” Gillis was the co-founder of the 90s pop and hip-hop boy band LFO.
LFO found modest success with their cover of Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You” in 1995. The band would also go on to cover New Kids on the Block’s “Step by Step” and release it in 1999.
That was around the time Gillis called it quits, however, as he was frustrated with the progress the group had been making. After leaving LFO, Gillis would go on multiple college tours and would eventually land a job in radio promotion.
1967 – 2023
American rock musician Van Conner will be best remembered as the bassist of Screaming Trees.
Conner formed Explosive Generation in high school, the band that would eventually become Screaming Trees after singer Mark Lanegan was added to the lineup in 1985.
Screaming Trees would record and release seven albums between 1986 and 1996. Conner would play on all.
Check out “Nearly Lost You,” “Dollar Bill,” “Butterfly,” “Shadow of the Season,” “Dying Days,” “All I Know,” “Sweet Oblivion,” and “Bed of Roses.”
1952 – 2023
American musician Tom Leadon was one of the founding members of Mudcrutch, Tom Petty’s original band, which was active from 1970 to 1975. The band would go through a revival in 2007, and Leadon would remain active with Mudcrutch until Petty died in 2017.
Leadon passed on March 22, 2023, of natural causes.
Check out “Lover of the Bayou,” “The Wrong Thing to Do,” “Shady Grove,” “Hungry No More,” and “Hope.”
Musicians That Died In 2023, Final Thoughts
2023 saw the passing of many musicians, young and old, some famous and legendary like Tina Turner, some remembered for their 15 minutes of fame.
Regardless, our condolences go out to their families, and we want them to know that the contribution of their dearly departed is greatly appreciated and will be remembered.