Ten Unheralded Deaths in Music of 2016 (So Far)

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Paul Kantner (January 28)
Kantner’s passing garnered barely a glimpse from the media, perhaps due to the fact that it came in the wake of news about Bowie and Frey, a double-loss that was difficult enough to process without having to absorb any more. But as a founder of Jefferson Airplane and later, JeffersonStarship, Kantner played a significant role in establishing San Francisco’s psychedelic scene of the mid- to late-‘60s. His influence cannot be overestimated, as lingering as that of the Grateful Dead or any of the other bands that thrived alongside the Airplane during the so-called Summer of Love.

Signe Anderson (January 28)
Anderson was the Airplane’s originally vocalist, prefiguring the arrival of Grace Slick, who would later help drive the band on to greater glories. She helped launch the band’s first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, and melded their original folk flourish with the edgier embrace they fully assumed following her departure. Indeed, there was barely time to bid her goodbye. The day after she quit, Slick made her bow with the band for the very first time. Ironically, Anderson died on January 28, the same day as Kantner.

Denise Matthews AKA Vanity (February 15)
A Prince protege, Vanity used her affiliation with the Purple One to launch her own group, Vanity 6, and ascend the charts with a limited string of R&B hits. A former actress and model, she later turned her back on the entertainment industry and chose religion instead. Even so, her name is forever enshrined as part of Prince’s musical legacy. She was 57, the same age as Prince, on the day she died.

Frank Sinatra Jr. (March 16)
The younger Sinatra’s first brush with fame was a precipitous one. As a teenager, he was kidnapped and held for ransom, catapulting him into the national news. Later, he toured with his famous father and took on the role of his bandleader. Although he never attained a fraction of the fame or success of Frank Senior, he became a big draw later in life by carrying on his father’s legacy and covering his catalogue. His uncanny resemblance to his dad also helped affirm his affiliation.

Lonnie Mack (April 21)
An exceptional guitarist and champion of the blues, Mack influenced a legion of future guitar gods, among them Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Jimmy Page. He was adept at a variety of styles, also including R&B, country, gospel, and rockabilly in his repertoire. Many critics have credited him with laying the template for guitar’s prominence as a lead instrument. The fact that he died on the same day as Prince suggests that his passing may escape the notice he so definitely deserves. 
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Lee Zimmerman