During the year of 2012, there were a number of noteworthy deaths of prominent and influential people in connection with oldies pop music.
Included among the departed notables were Whitney Houston, Andy Williams, Davy Jones and Dick Clark, and this article will attempt to recall and pay tribute to the legends who died in 2012 and left their respective legacies for fans of oldies music to enjoy forever.
Following are capsule summaries about the departed stars, and each includes a video link regarding either a huge hit song or a tribute to the deceased.
Notable female songstresses
* WHITNEY HOUSTON, one of the finest and most-familiar female vocalists in American music history, died at age 48 on Feb. 11 of what was ruled an accidental drowning in a hotel bathtub, following years of hard living and drug use. She reportedly sold more than 170 million records worldwide, and at one point, she had seven consecutive No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts. To hear one of her smash hits — “Greatest Love Of All” from 1986 — click here.
* ETTA JAMES, the Los Angeles-born blues singer best-known for “Dance With Me Henry” (1955) and “At Last” (1961), died from complications of leukemia on Jan. 20. To listen to “At Last”, click here.
* DONNA SUMMER, dubbed “Queen of Disco” for such songs as “Love To Love You Baby” and “Last Dance” (among her four No. 1 hits), died of lung cancer at the age of 63 on May 17. Click here to listen to a song (“Bad Girls”) that topped the charts for five consecutive weeks in 1979.
* FONTELLA BASS — a soul singer from St. Louis, best known for “Rescue Me” in 1965 — died from complications after a heart attack on Dec. 26 at age 72. To hear her big song, which reached No. 4 on Billboard, click here.
* KITTY WELLS, one of the nation’s first C&W superstars, died on July 16 from complications of a stroke at age 92. Among her most-famous singles were “Making Believe” (1955) and “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” (1952). To hear her only major crossover hit (“Jealousy” in 1958), click here.
Among male recording artists who died during 2012
* MAJOR HARRIS, who spent some time with both The Jarmells and The Delfonics, died in a hospital in his hometown of Richmond, Va., at age 65 of congestive heart and lung failure. Click here to hear his top solo effort, “Love Won’t Let Me Wait”, which went to No. 5 on the pop charts and No. 1 R&B in 1975.
* R.B. GREAVES, a nephew of Sam Cooke, died of prostate cancer on Sept. 27 at the age of 68. He is most noted for “Take A Letter Maria”, which was a No. 2 Billboard hit in 1969, and to hear it, click here.
* JOE SOUTH, a Nashville session guitarist, singer and songwriter, died of heart failure at the age of 72 on Sept. 5. Two of his songs made it to No. 12 on the Billboard pop charts: “Games People Play” in 1969, and “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” in 1970. And to hear “Games People Play”, click here.
* SCOTT McKENZIE — who sang the huge hit “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)” in the summer of 1967 — died at his Los Angeles home at the age of 73 on Aug. 18. To hear his signature hit, written by John Phillips of The Mamas And Papas, click here.
* JIMMY JONES, who had big back-to-back hits with “Handy Man” and “Good Timin'” in 1960, died on Aug. 2 at the age of 75. To hear the first of those million-selling records, click here.
Deceased members of prominent vocal groups
* EARL “SPEEDO” CARROLL (of The Cadillacs) died of diabetes and a stroke in a New York City nursing home on Nov. 25 at the age of 75. After being lead vocalist of The Cadillacs, a Harlem doo-wop group, he joined The Coasters in 1961. To hear The Cadillacs’ biggest charter (“Speedo” from 1956), click here.
* DONALD “DUCK” DUNN (of Booker T & The MGs) died on May 13 at the age of 70. He was a guitarist, producer and songwriter, and as a session musician for Stax Records, he played bass guitar behind such singers as Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas and Otis Redding. To hear Booker T. & The MGs’ signature song (“Green Onions” from 1962), click here.
* CLEVE DUNCAN (of The Penguins) died in Los Angeles on Nov. 7 at the age of 78. His strong tenor voice as lead singer helped boost the doo-wop classic “Earth Angel” to major-hit status in late 1954. And to hear that song, which has sold more than 10 million copies, click here.
* DAVY JONES (of The Monkees) died on Feb. 29 of a severe heart attack in Indiantown, Fla. The British teen idol and heartthrob was only 20 years old when he became a member of The Monkees. That singing group went on to have four chart-topping singles, and to hear their biggest hit — “I’m A Believer”, which spent seven consecutive weeks in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1967 — click here.
* FREDDY MILANO (of The Belmonts) died of lung cancer on New Year’s Day at the age of 72. The group, which backed up Dion on many hits in the late ’50s and 1960, was named after the street in The Bronx where Milano lived, and their biggest charter was “Where Or When”, which went to No. 3 in early 1960. To hear it, click here.
* HERB REED (of The Platters) died on June 4 at the age of 83. He sang bass on all of the L.A. group’s big hits, which included four No. 1s and 22 singles in the Top 40. To hear “My Prayer”, which topped the national charts for five weeks in the summer of 1956, click here.
* ROBIN GIBB (of The Bee Gees) died on May 20 of liver and kidney failure at the age of 62. His falsetto harmonies helped the trio of British brothers to define the disco era of the late ’70s, and the group had nine No. 1 charters. “Night Fever” spent eight consecutive weeks in the top position in 1978, and to hear it, click here.
* MICKEY BAKER (of Mickey And Sylvia) died in France on Nov. 27. A prominent session guitarist, he teamed with Sylvia Vanderpool for a number of hits. To hear their most-famous single (“Love Is Strange” in 1957), click here.
* DON GRADY (of The Yellow Balloon) died of cancer in California on June 27 at age 68. He was a former Mousketeer who starred in the TV sitcom “My Three Sons”, and he formed a group called Yellow Balloon, and to hear the group’s only big hit — also called “Yellow Balloon” (from 1967) — click here.
* MIKE KELLY (of The Duprees) died at the age of 68 in his North Carolina home from a series of slow-developing health complications. He was with the New Jersey group in the early days, but wasn’t around for most of the biggest hits on the Coed label. However, he returned in 1964 and sang lead on the group’s final charter (“Around The Corner”), and to hear it, click here.
* JOHNNY OTIS (of The Johnny Otis Show) died at the age of 90 on Jan. 17. He was one of the pioneers who brought black music to white audiences as a bandleader and radio host. He wrote and recorded “Willie And The Hand Jive” in 1958, and to hear it, click here.
* DOROTHY McGUIRE (of The McGuire Sisters) died on Sept. 7 at age 84 after suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Among the sisters’ most popular songs are chart-toppers “Sincerely” (1955) and “Sugartime” (1957), and to hear the latter song, click here.
Other promient people associated with the world of music
* DICK CLARK, sometimes called “the world’s oldest teenager”, is most-famous for starting American Bandstand in 1958. And New Year’s Eve won’t be quite the same without Clark helping with the countdown from Times Square. Eight years after suffering a stroke, he died of a heart attack on April 18 at age 82. For a video farewell to a TV legend, click here.
* DON CORNELIUS, as longtime host of “Soul Train”, was a pioneer in bringing soul, funky music and cutting-edge dancing to the TV screen. He allegedly died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Feb. 1 at age 75. For a tribute, click here.
* HAL DAVID — the renowned pop music lyricist who teamed with composer Burt Bacharach for dozens of major hit songs for movies, TV and records — died Sept. 1 at the age of 91. To view a tribute that includes many of his familiar tunes, click here.