Now that the holiday season is over and early deadlines are in the rear-view mirror, I can finally take a few minutes to sit down and write (cry?) about those we lost in 2016.
Man…what a shit show last year was. Fresh off the heels of losing Lemmy (Motörhead) and Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver) in December 2015, the deaths of iconic celebrities in 2016 just did…not…stop. Do you realize the legends we lost, in the music world and beyond? The ones who affected our lives so greatly? Here’s a short list, in no particular order:
Frank Sinatra Jr.
In just one calendar year, we lost arguably the world’s most famous person (Ali), a slew of musical geniuses (Bowie, Prince, Frey, Cohen, et al.), sports icons (Ali, Howe, Palmer), and even freakin’ Willy Wonka! Hell, professional fighter Kimbo Slice fought in February and died of heart failure four months later at the age of 42. 2016 just couldn’t be defeated.
One death that hit close to home was Christina Grimmie’s, a 22-year-old, über-talented singer from Marlton, NJ. Grimmie competed on The Voice in 2014, and despite finishing third on the reality show, was on her way to superstardom. The beautiful songstress gained an army of fans due to her sublime covers on YouTube, video gaming, vlogs, and overall quirkiness.
Why do I bring up Grimmie’s name in particular? For starters, she had one of the greatest, most powerful voices I’ve ever heard; she could cut through like a knife and really tug at your heartstrings. Secondly, her death was sadly overlooked; she wasn’t a household name, and the Pulse shooting in Orlando—ironically enough, the same city where she died—a mere 24 hours later, stole the headlines. And lastly, because I was invited to see her perform at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City on May 31—just two weeks before she was gunned down by some psychopath as she was signing autographs and hugging fans after her show—and turned down the offer…because I had no idea who she was. Only after Grimmie’s passing did I learn that we had such an amazing talent right under our noses here in the Garden State, and it’s been a tough pill to swallow ever since.
Aleah Stanbridge (sometimes credited as Aleah Starbridge) is another name I’d like to bring up. Aleah was a Sweden-based, South African-born singer for the band Trees Of Eternity, who lost her battle with cancer in April. Trees Of Eternity released their debut full-length album, Hour Of The Nightingale, a few months after Aleah’s death, and the deeply personal, melancholic disc ranked number one on my list of Top 10 Albums of 2016. I dare anyone to make it through “Broken Mirror” without getting emotional.
Just before 2016 concluded, singer-songwriter George Michael—one-half of the British duo Wham! and whose song “Last Christmas” has become a holiday staple—passed away, ironically enough, on Christmas Day. Michael pumped out more hit singles than he was praised for over the course of his 35-year history—”Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Careless Whisper,” “Faith,” “Freedom ’90,” “Father Figure,” and “I Want Your Sex” being some of the better-known ones—and they all managed to hit you right in the feels. His loss was the last swift kick in the ass that 2016 felt it needed to deliver.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the passing of two musical masterminds, David Bowie and Prince. Our cover stories remembering both (Issue #851 – David Bowie) and (Issue #866 – Prince Rogers Nelson) were perfect sendoffs to the two legends, as beautifully photographed by Mark Weiss over the years, and brilliantly penned by former Aquarian managing editor, Patrick Slevin (Bowie), and longtime Aquarian writer/contributing editor, James Campion (Prince). There was also a touching piece dedicated to former Eagles founder Glenn Frey, written by Glyn Emmerson, and also shot by Weiss. These must-read stories are available at theaquarian.com.
I can’t speak for the former managing editors of this nearly 50-year-old paper, but 2016 was undoubtedly one of the most difficult ones around here, with the Grim Reaper striking down our heroes seemingly on a daily basis, and us having to scramble for last-minute photos, articles, etc. Trust me—it ain’t easy. But, we do the best we can around here, and I hope you enjoy reading.
However, I hope you don’t have to read another piece like this in our pages regarding 2017—we can’t take another year like this one.