In Memory – The Artists We Lost in 2023

In Memory of artists we lost in 2023

As we head into 2024, we at Center Stage Music Center would like to take a look back at the musicians that we lost in 2023. This is by far not a definite list. There are many more notable names that are not listed here, such as Anita Pointer (of the Pointer Sisters), Rudolph Isley (of the Isley Brothers), Gary Rossington (of Lynyrd Skynyrd), Fred White (of Earth, Wind & Fire), Bobby Caldwell, and Lisa Marie Presley. There are also many more not-as-notable names that aren’t listed here; from the musicians in our personal lives to the musicians that never made it big, we remember the music that they imbued with life and love.

Tina Turner

The Queen of Rock N’ Roll (born Anna Mae Bullock) passed away this March and it’s only right to look back at some of her greatest hits. From “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Proud Mary,” “The Best,” “Private Dancer,” and much much more, Turner dabbled in numerous genres with an electric energy that inspired the likes of Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Beyonce, and others across R&B, Rock N’ Roll, country, and soul music. Janis Joplin, Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, Fantasia, Janelle Monae, and Rihanna have all cited Turner as a major influence on their music. Her rock music was grounded in Black gospel and blues traditions, crafting an iconic sound that matched her raspy, explosive voice.

Sinead O’Connor

The Irish singer, songwriter, and activist (adopted name Shuhada’ Sadaqat) was notable for her activism in issues of child abuse, human rights, racism, organized religion, and women’s rights. Singer of hits such as “Nothing Compares 2 U,” O’Connor was steadfast in her beliefs despite the public backlash she faced when she voiced them. On March 20th, 2024, Carnegie Hall will host a tribute concert for O’Connor and fellow Irishman, Shane MacGowan (frontman of The Pogues and friend of O’Connor that passed away in 2023).

Tony Bennett

Referred to as the King of the American Songbook and a self-identified “tenor who sings like a baritone,” Bennett (born Anthony Dominick Benedetto) was known for both his smooth voice and the jazz sensibility that he brought to pop music in the 1950s. In 1962, Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” brought him to great fame and earned him two Grammy Awards. In the following years, Bennett would release more than 70 albums and win 19 competitive Grammy Awards. Working into his 80s and 90s, he released well-received duet albums with popular singers, such as two notable albums with Lady Gaga.

Harry Belafonte 

Harlem-born and Jamaica-raised singer, actor, and civil rights activist, Belafonte (born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr.) popularized calypso music for international audiences in the 1950s and 1960s. Notable for songs such as “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” “Jump in the Line,” “Jamaica Farewell,” and “Mary’s Boy Child,” Belafonte was also an acclaimed actor and a recipient of an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award). (Author’s note: I recommend the film Carmen Jones). Additionally, Belafonte was known for his civil rights activism, as one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s confidants and providers. He helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, contributed to 1961 Freedom Rides, supported voter registration drives, bankrolled SNCC, and numerous more efforts up until 2023.

Jeff Beck

Described by Rolling Stone as “one of the most influential lead guitarists in rock,” Beck (born Geoffrey Arnold Beck) was named the 5th greatest guitarist of all time by the magazine in 2023. Beck popularized the use of audio feedback and distortion on the guitar, which helped open the doors for psychedelic rock. Furthermore, he largely influenced 1970s heavy metal music in his work with the Yardbirds and the Jeff Beck Group’s 1968 album Truth.

Ryuichi Sakamoto 

The Oscar-winning composer first came onto the scene as a member of the three person group, Yellow Magic Orchestra (whose Yukihiro Takahashi also passed away in 2023). The electronic music band was notable for their aid in pioneering the electronic genres of electropop/technopop, synthpop, cyberpunk, ambient house, and electronica. Sakamoto’s later solo music and film compositions would continue his previous work in ground-breaking and award-winning electronic music. More about Sakamoto can be read in our upcoming article on modern classical music.

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