Lamenting the Losses of 2017

On 18th November, the world learned the sad news that AC/DC guitarist and co-founder Malcolm Young had died. He was 64 years old and is survived by his wife and two children.

Malcolm’s death was, sadly, one of many high profile deaths this year. Though not quite so devastating as 2016 (a year I’m sure most of us would rather forget), 2017 was still a pretty bad year for the music industry. The first to really catch my attention was Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell, who committed suicide on 18th May 2017.

Of all the early ‘90s grunge singers, Cornell was probably the most versatile. Though he frequently stuck to the more understated vocal style of his peers, he could be much more sonorous, resulting in a melodious, piercing wail. This is best demonstrated in Temple of the Dog’s song ‘Hunger Strike’ and the wonderful manner in which Cornell and Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder feed off one another.

Another more underreported death this year was that of rock and roll star Fats Domino, who died on 24th October aged 89. Fats was a musical titan, with a career spanning six decades in addition to inspiring numerous artists, including The Beatles. He was also a towering figure in his home city of New Orleans, as is demonstrated by the outpouring of emotion when he briefly went missing following Hurricane Katrina in 2006.

Fats was a musical titan, with a career spanning six decades

There’s a real energy to Fats’s music, stemming in no small part from his mastery of the piano, which lay at the centre of most of his songs. And though his playing style was fundamentally grounded in Jazz and Blues, it was this energy that allowed Fats to transition seamlessly into Rock n’ Roll. Still, Fats’s music is remarkably accessible to newcomers and definitely worth exploring.

But the death that hit closest to home for me was Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington who, like Cornell, committed suicide on 20th July. Linkin Park defined my teenage years in no small way. I remember whenever we were on the computers at school loading up whatever dodgy streaming site that hadn’t been blocked, plugging in my tangled headphones and drowning the world out to the tune of Linkin Park before going home, logging onto World of Warcraft and doing the same. One of my fondest memories is of the journey back from a school trip to Poland listening to Hybrid Theory on my dad’s old Walkman, staring out the coach window as the German countryside rolled past. Angsty though they may have been, I found a certain catharsis in Linkin Park’s music, and Chester lay right at the centre of it.

I found a certain catharsis in Linkin Park’s music, and Chester lay right at the centre of it

Like Cornell, Chester’s strength as a vocalist stems from his versatility, though in his case, it’s a versatility of style. Chester could alternate between clean signing, piercing screaming and even rapping near seamlessly, and all done with an emotional energy perfectly in keeping with the instrumentation and the band’s other vocalist Mike Shinoda.

Of course 2017 was witness to many more deaths than the four mentioned here. I’ve not even touched on the likes of Glen Campbell, Lil Peep or Tom Petty, all of whom died this year. I’d sign off by saying something about their musical legacy, but anything I would say would be vapid and trite. So, for lack of anything better, here’s to those artists we lost this year. I just hope 2018 will be a bit more sparing.

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