The music world counted among its 2015 losses some of the most vibrant, visionary and pivotal figures of the past several decades — not just singers and musicians, but producers, songwriters, executives, entrepreneurs, historians, visual artists and others who did their life work behind the scenes. The tally of passings below includes household names and less famous women and men who nonetheless shaped the sounds we listen to. No matter what their age — early 20s or mid-90s — they all impacted our musical world. This list is necessarily by no means inclusive — for instance, it leaves out the 89 fans and workers killed when terrorists attacked an Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris in November. But hopefully, it will still serve as a tribute to all of those the world is worse off without.
A$AP Yams, 26, founder and producer for Harlem’s hip-hop collective A$AP Mob and the mastermind behind rapper A$AP Rocky’s success died of a reported accidental overdose.
Don Covay, who had several R&B hits in the ‘60s and ‘70s and wrote “Chain of Fools” died at the age of 78 from complications he suffered from a stroke decades ago.
Andrae Crouch, 72, the pastor whose ‘70s group the Disciples energetically updated gospel music with contemporary funk.
Grand Ole Opry star and country novelty singer Little Jimmy Dickens, 94, who most famously sang of cold taters and paradise birds flying up your nose.
Perennially controversial cult artist and producer Kim Fowley, 75, whose credits range from the 1960 caveman-rock goof “Alley Oop” to the Runaways and beyond.
Rod McKuen, 81, poet, spoken-word recording artist, and writer of the pop hits “Seasons in the Sun” and “Jean.”
Dutch avant-garde electronic composer and song sculptor Paul Panhuysen, 81.
Big Brother and the Holding Company founder and guitarist Sam Andrew, 73, after suffering a heart attack.
Left Banke keyboardist Michael Brown, 65, who wrote “Walk Away Renee” and “Pretty Ballerina.”
Rising norteño singer Ariel Camacho, 22, whose traditionalist narcocorrido “El Karma” posthumously topped the Latin pop chart; he was killed in a car accident.
New York pop singer Lesley Gore, whose quintessentially suburban early ‘60s teen-beat hits include “It’s My Party,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry” and the proto-feminist “You Don’t Own Me.” Gore was 65; she died from complications related to cancer.
Oakland-area gangsta rapper The Jacka, 37, was killed in a shooting.
Jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn popularizer Clark Terry, 94.
Joe Mauldin, 74, recording engineer and upright double bassist for The Crickets, the Buddy Holly-fronted group that directly inspired The Beatles and helped initiate the concept of a self-contained rock band.
Andy Fraser, 62. As a 15-year-old in 1968, Fraser co-founded and played bass for the teenage British hard rock band Free, and within two years co-wrote the classic “All Right Now.”
Jack Ely, 71, who slurred The Kingsmen’s “unintelligible at any speed” “Louie Louie.” Ben E. King, 76, lead voice on turn of the ‘60s The Drifters hits such as “There Goes My Baby” and “Save The Last Dance For Me” and then solo singer and co-writer of songs such as “Stand By Me,” a Top 10 pop hit in 1961 and 1986.
Percy Sledge, Alabama soul singer most famous for his pop-chart-topping 1966 “When a Man Loves a Woman” was 73; he suffered from cancer.
Legendary blues man B.B. King, 89, may have left his beloved Lucille behind, but not before he influenced a host of rock ‘n’ rollers (Keith Richards), garnered 30 Grammy nominations, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Detroit jazz trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, 78, who performed with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and a bevy of Motown musicians also led his own band and recorded with artists ranging from Geri Allen and David Murray to B.B. King.
Errol Brown, 71, co-founder and frontman of the unassumingly sly and influential British funk, R&B and disco band Hot Chocolate.
Hardcore Queens rapper and Coke Boys member Chinx, 31.
Johnny Gimble, 88, was for years considered the premier fiddle player in Western swing and country.
Ornette Coleman, 85, one of jazz music’s most influential saxophonists was renown for his groundbreaking work. The Pulitzer Prize-winner shattered jazz fans minds with his 1960 album Free Jazz, that featured two quartets on two separate stereo channels, allowing you groove to two different groups at the same time.
New Orleans R&B producer and arranger Harold Battiste, 83, who helped shape records by Sam Cooke, Lee Dorsey, Dr. John and Sonny and Cher (he’s credited with arranging “I Got You Babe”), among many others.
Jim Ed Brown, 81, who hit the country chart from the mid ‘60s through the late ‘70s, most successfully with “Pop a Top.”
Chris Squire, 67, was the bassist for prog rockers Yes.
Buddy Emmons, 78, the jazz-inspired pedal steel innovator and career sessionman whose re-configuration of the instrument drastically changed country’s sound in the ‘60s.
Michael Masser, whose long list of popular compositions include “Saving All My Love for You,” “The Greatest Love of All,” “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To),” and “Tonight I Celebrate My Love.” The songwriter was 74.
Joey Robinson Jr., 53, Sugarhill Records scion and executive and member of the early ‘80s electro-boogie group West Street Mob. Robinson succumbed to cancer.
Joan Sebastian, 64, the iconic Mexican singer/songwriter was a mainstay on the charts and heralded for overcoming his hardscrabble roots.
British singer Cilla Black, 72, whose soul-infused pop hits such as “Anyone Who Had a Heart” made her a mid-’60s equivalent of Adele in the U.K.
North African desert blues singer, refugee advocate and world music festival fixture Mariem Hassan. She was 57 had suffered a long battle with cancer.
Israeli guitarist Yosi Piamenta, 64, who combined heavy psychedelic rock with traditional Jewish music and was dubbed the “Hassidic Hendrix.”
Brooklyn rapper and Boot Camp Clik member Sean Price, 43.
Bouteldja Belkacem, 68, who helped modernize Algerian raï with accordion and synthesizer in the ‘60s.
Peggy “Lady Bo” Jones, rock ’n’ roll’s first important female guitarist while in Bo Diddley’s band beginning in the late ‘50s. She was 75.
Bebop saxophonist and clarinetist Phil Woods, 83, whose recording career stretched from the mid-’50s to the 2010s.
Gary Richrath, 65, guitarist for ‘80s FM-radio mainstays R.E.O. Speedwagon.
John Berg, 83, Columbia Records art director who designed more than 5,000 album covers, including Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run and Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde.
Peter Dougherty, who co-created Yo! MTV Raps in the late ‘80s and was thereby instrumental in breaking hip-hop in mid-America died of a heart attack. He was 59.
Billy Joe Royal, 73, blue-eyed soul country singer who hit in the late ‘60s with songs such as “Down in the Boondocks” and “Cherry Hill Park.”
Cory Wells, 74, co-founder and lead vocalist on Three Dog Night hits such as “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” “Eli’s Coming” and “Shambala.” The band suffered another loss earlier in the year when keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon, 67, succumbed to cancer in March.
Carey Lander, 33, keyboardist and vocalist for indie rock group Camera Obscura, passed away from a rare form of cancer.
Mack McCormick, 85, self-defined anthropologist, was a musicologist who helped kick-start the ‘60s blues revival with his research on Robert Johnson and by booking Lightnin’ Hopkins alongside folk artists.
P.F. Sloan, 70, singer/songwriter who wrote “Eve of Destruction” and co-wrote “Secret Agent Man” succumbed to cancer.
Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, 61, who banged the living hell out of Motörhead’s drums from the mid-’70s through the early ‘90s, helped to invent speed metal in the process.
Prolific New Orleans R&B producer, pianist and songwriter Allen Toussaint, 77, was responsible in some way or another for “Mother-in-Law,” “Working in a Coal Mine,” “Yes We Can Can,” “Lady Marmalade,” “Southern Nights,” and countless other era-defining hits.
Luigi Creatore, 93, who with his cousin Hugo Peretti produced records by artists including Sam Cooke, Perry Como, Elvis Presley and the Stylistics and wrote the English lyrics that turned “Wimoweh” into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
African-American opera pioneer Mattiwilda Dobbs, 90, was the third African-American to appear as a principal singer with the Metropolitan Opera. The coloratura soprano also performed with the San Francisco Opera.
John Garner, 63, one of the first great heavy metal screamers and drummers, with the over-the-top early ‘70s Brooklyn trio Sir Lord Baltimore.
Lemmy Kilmister, 70, who returned metal to the dirt whence it came, made lawns next door die, embodied the rock ’n’ roll life like no one else, cheated death for decades, and didn’t give a flying hoot what you or anybody else thinks as the lifetime lead wart-hog roarer of Motörhead and Hawkwind.
Native American actor, activist, writer, rock musician and self-proclaimed Graffiti Man John Trudell, 69.
Scott Weiland was the versatile vocalist who bridged grunge, glam and southern sounds, scoring radio hits and platinum albums from the early ‘90s well into the 2000s with Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver. Weiland, 48, was found unresponsive while on tour with his latest outfit, The Wildabouts. It was a double tragedy for rock legacy — Jeremy Brown, 34, of The Wildabouts passed away from unknown causes in March; Brown began playing with Stone Temple Pilots in 2008.
Holly Woodlawn, 69, transgender star of Andy Warhol films and lead subject of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.”
William Guest, 74, was a member of Gladys Knight and the Pips from 1953 to 1989.