Music Deaths Are Coming in Waves Bigger Than 3
The end of 2020 has been tough on music and on fans like me. It keeps taking bits and pieces of my childhood away. “It’s like losing old friends,” my sister texted me after I told her about the death of “’80s Ladies” country singer-songwriter K.T. Oslin on December 21 at age 78.
Her passing followed that of country icon Charley Pride on December 12 at age 86 and ’90s country hitmaker Hal Ketchum on November 23 at age 67, as well as the earlier deaths of Billy Joe Shaver, Eddie Van Halen, Helen Reddy, Jerry Jeff Walker, Johnny Nash, Mac Davis, Spencer Davis, The Outfield’s Tony Lewis, and first season American Idol contestant Nikki McKibbin.
Now music and my childhood memories have taken yet another hit. TMZ has reported that Whodini rapper John “Ecstasy” Fletcher died suddenly and unexpectedly on December 23 of undisclosed causes at age 56. I fondly remember Whodini as being one of my great ’80s rap loves, second only to Run-D.M.C., another trio that also lost a founding member — Jam Master Jay, who was fatally shot in 2002. Ecstasy was the trio’s resident heartthrob, and he also dropped a memorable rap solo on Midnight Starr’s 1988 R&B hit “Don’t Rock the Boat.”
Several days ago, while I was watching the Apple TV+ documentary Beastie Boys Story, I inevitably thought of my recent Medium article “Are Music Deaths More Likely in Groups of Three?” — which explored the high untimely death rate of members of music trios. (Former Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch died in 2012.) Meanwhile, HBO Max’s now-trending The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, also has been reminding me of the power and fragility of three. (Barry Gibb is the trio’s lone surviving member.)
Music deaths in general have far exceeded the proverbial “groups of three” over the past few months, but if one is the loneliest number, three once again feels like the saddest.