Editor's Pick: Dio, man.
Neph Basedow: 2010 commenced on a sad note with the passing of Memphis garage rocker Jay Reatard (aka Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr.). I'd seen him play a tiny show at Chicago's Empty Bottle in 2008 and still consider it one of the best shows I've ever seen. It was definitive punk rock - fast, loud, jam-packed, sweaty, drunken.
Lindsey wrote two-minute lo-fi masterpieces that resurrected the original gritty, fun essence of pop-punk. But what I liked best about him was his allegiance to the rock and roll cause - it wasn't a façade for him; he lived it, breathed it, and took it with to the grave. Figuratively and literally: It's reported that his trademark Gibson Flying V guitar was buried with him.
At just 29 years old, Jay Reatard's passing dealt a heavy blow to 2010 and the music community in general.
Marc Brubaker: On October 10, we lost another of the great voices of soul with the passing of Mr. Solomon Burke. "Big Soul" left us unexpectedly, dying at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, just two days before a scheduled performance. Known best for his song "Cry to Me" and the original "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" which The Rolling Stones co-opted almost immediately, Burke never broke big like his fellow soul men Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. Digging into his catalog is highly recommended - Burke lived far longer than both of those crooners, and there are gems aplenty, such as "I'm Hanging Up My Heart For You" and "If You Need Me."
Craig Hlavaty: Jay Reatard. He was massively prolific, for better or worse, which I can get behind. Some things were better than others, but it was all him, which was what sold me on his catalog. He seemed to be like a faucet of riffs. I talked to him for the Rocks Off blog just weeks before he passed away in early January, and still had his cellphone number in my phone when he died.
We talked about where his music was headed and his recording process. He was a sweet dude, even though he could have been a jerk in a cramped van in the middle of Florida talking to a writer from Houston.
Jef With One F: It's been a bad year for losing people, but I'm going to miss Type O Negative's Peter Steele the most. The man was finally getting back on his feet. He was sober, his health was good, and he was writing again when sudden heart failure took him down this April at 48. We like to think death snuck up on him, because he was fully aware that the 6'8" metal god was perfectly capable of taking that scythe and thumping Death right in the coccyx.
Steele was such a troubled soul. He was in and out of mental institutions for years. Heavily addicted to cocaine, he once attacked a romantic rival and ended up serving a month-long prison sentence. He was paranoid. He struggled with his religion. He was, in short, the kind of mythic metal figure that is the archetype of rock and roll excess.
He was also an insanely talented musician, and I've always felt Type O never got the credit they deserved. In a just world, Steele would have James Hetfield's career, and Hetfield would be reduced to crouching in the bushes behind a fourteen-year-old girl's house hoping to catch her thinking about paying less than $15.99 for Master of Puppets.
John Seaborn Gray: We lost a lot of good ones this year, but the one I'll miss most is Alex Chilton, the main creative force behind Big Star. I only got into Big Star a couple of years ago, but they're fantastic. Their songwriting still holds up as fresh today; there are songs on their very first album, released in 1972, that could just as easily come from the Flaming Lips or Maximo Park.
I think I'm the only one who actually likes their fourth album, released in 2005, but their first three are widely regarded as hugely influential, as well as being power-pop masterpieces on their own terms. Chilton died of a heart attack in March, to be followed by Big Star bassist Andy Hummel in July. Those are two big losses for fans of indie rock.
Matthew Keever: The traditional vocalist, specifically the raspy whine, as killed by Auto-Tune. We're hoping it's a phase that music gets over. And soon.
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Shea Serrano: Easy: Mike Jones. What ever happened to that guy anyway? That poor guy fell off the side of the planet. I wouldn't mind sitting down and talking to him for a bit. [Ed. Note: As far as we know, Jones is still among the living.]
Brittanie Shey: Ari Up of the Slits. I was too young to really appreciate the band when everyone else did and it was only after her recent (and early) death that I began to examine what she did for women, punk rock and music in general. Sad I didn't get the chance to appreciate her when she was alive.
William Michael Smith: Bobby Charles. A tragic figure, huge talent, funky cat who hung out/hid out with Rick Danko and The Band, hopefully Bobby's hangin' out with the street people on Easy Avenue somewhere now. There will never be another Bobby Charles.