In Memoriam: 2016 in Music 2016, dubbed "The Year the Music Died" by CNN, was the deadliest year for music icons since 1970.
David Bowie died early on in the year, followed by Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones and George Michael, among several other notable musicians and producers. Many of those who died were extremely popular and influential not only in their respective genre, but in the music world as a whole.
This guide provides a comprehensive list of those who passed in 2016. May their music play on forever.
Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou (25 June 1963 – 25 December 2016), known professionally as George Michael, was an English singer, songwriter, and record producer who rose to fame as a member of the music duo Wham! He was best known for his work in the 1980s and 1990s, including hit singles such as "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and "Last Christmas", and albums such as Faith (1987) and Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (1990).
Michael sold more than 100 million records worldwide. His debut solo album, Faith, sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Michael achieved seven number one singles in the UK and eight number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, including "Careless Whisper" and "Freedom! '90". He ranks among the best-selling British acts of all time, and in 2008 he was ranked 40th on Billboard's list of the Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time. Michael won various music awards throughout his 30-year career, including three Brit Awards—he won Best British Male twice, four MTV Video Music Awards, four Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards, and two Grammy Awards from eight nominations. Michael, who came out as gay in 1998, was an active LGBT rights campaigner and HIV/AIDS charity fundraiser.
In 2004, the Radio Academy named Michael the most played artist on British radio during the period 1984–2004. The documentary A Different Story (released in 2005) covered his career and personal life. Michael's first tour in 15 years, the worldwide 25 Live tour, spanned three tours over the course of three years (2006, 2007, and 2008). In the early hours of 25 December 2016, Michael, aged 53, was found dead in bed at his Oxfordshire home.
Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) was an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. He was a musical innovator who was known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, extravagant dress and makeup, and wide vocal range. His music integrates a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, new wave, soul, psychedelia, and pop. He has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. He won seven Grammy Awards, an American Music Award, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award for the film Purple Rain. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone ranked Prince at number 27 on its list of 100 Greatest Artists, "the most influential artists of the rock & roll era".
Prince was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and developed an interest in music as a young child. He signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. at the age of 18, and released his debut album For You in 1978. His 1979 album Prince went platinum, and his next three records—Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy (1981), and 1999 (1982)—continued his success, showcasing Prince's prominently sexual lyrics and blending of funk, dance, and rock music. In 1984, he began referring to his backup band as the Revolution and released Purple Rain, which served as the soundtrack to his eponymous 1984 film debut and was met with widespread acclaim. After releasing the albums Around the World in a Day (1985) and Parade (1986), The Revolution disbanded, and Prince released the double album Sign o' the Times (1987) as a solo artist. He released three more solo albums before debuting the New Power Generation band in 1991.
In 1993, while in a contractual dispute with Warner Bros., he changed his stage name to , an unpronounceable symbol also known as the "Love Symbol", and began releasing new albums at a faster pace to remove himself from contractual obligations. He released five records between 1994 and 1996 before signing with Arista Records in 1998. In 2000, he began referring to himself as "Prince" again. He released 16 albums after that, including the platinum-selling Musicology (2004). His final album, Hit n Run Phase Two, was first released on the Tidal streaming service on December 12, 2015. Prince died from a fentanyl overdose at his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, on April 21, 2016, at the age of 57.
Sharon Lafaye Jones (born May 4, 1956) is an American soul and funk singer. She is the lead singer of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, a soul and funk band based in Brooklyn, New York. Jones experienced breakthrough success relatively late in life, releasing her first record when she was 40 years old. In 2014, Jones was nominated for her first Grammy, in the category Best R&B Album, for Give the People What They Want.