Monday, 13 February 2012

5 Female Vocalists - Gone Before Their Time ?

With the sad news of Whitney Houston's passing that broke over the last weekend, it got me thinking as to other female artists who have prematurely left the world, leaving a lasting legacy.

The following 5 are a purely personal choice of some of my all-time favourite lady singers, all of which are sadly no-longer with us.

Tammy Wynette (May 1942 - April 1998)

Justified and Ancient - The KLF featuring Tammy Wynette

Virginia Wynette Pugh became one of country music's best known artists and was termed the First Lady of Country Music. With such worldwide hits as "Stand By Your Man" and "D.I.V.O.R.C.E", she became a major singing star throughout the globe.

In 1991 she returned to the public eye, guesting on British electronica group the KLF's "Justified and Ancient", which zoomed to No.1 in 18 countries and reached No.11 on the US Billboard chart, giving her a whole new, wider fan base.

Over the years she had many medical problems, spending much time in hospital, She underwent at least 25 major operations and suffered from an acute addiction to pain-killers.

She died in her sleep aged 55 from a blood clot in her lung.

Mama Cass Elliott (September 1941 - July 1974)

Dream a Little Dream of Me - Mama Cass Elliott

Born Ellen Naomi Cohen, she is best remembered as a singer with "The Mamas and the Papas" in the 60's and early 70's.

After the group's break-up, she embarked upon a solo career. Here she completed a further 5 albums, extensively toured the world and appeared in numerous TV variety and chat shows. 

After completing a 2-week set of sell-out dates at the London Palladium, she died from a heart attack at a flat she had been borrowing which belonged to singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson. Eerily, four years later, the legendary drummer from the Who, Keith Moon died in the very same flat, at the same young age of 32.

Minnie Riperton (November 1947 - July 1979)

 Loving You - Minnie Riperton

A native of Chicago's south side, Minnie Riperton is best remembered for her amazing five -and-a-half octave vocal range and her mega hit "Loving You".

Early in 1976 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. At the time, even though she was given only 6 months to live, she continued to tour and record. After surviving another 3 - 1/2 years, she passed away at age 31 on July 12, 1979.

Kirsty MacColl (October 1959 - December 2000)

Days - Kirsty MacColl

I must admit to Kirsty being my all-time favourite female vocalist and I have outlined her story in a previous article which contains 4 further samples of her work. Please click on the following link to read, watch and listen:

Back in 2000, when on holiday at an island off the Mexican coast, Kirsty was hit by a motor cruiser whilst she was trying to save her son from the path of the same vessel. She was killed instantly. 

Kirsty was a prolific songwriter as well as a singer. She had the uncanny knack of making you feel happy and sad in the same verse, whilst at the same time making you want to scream and shout in the next chorus.

Her vocal style was unique and her delivery sublime.

Karen Carpenter (March 1950 - February 1983)

 Superstar - The Carpenters

No list such as this would be complete without the inclusion of the amazingly talented Karen Carpenter.

One half of the mega-successful brother-sister duo "The Carpenters" who were known for their romantic ballads, they became the No.1 selling American music act of the 1970's.

She is best remembered for her velvety, clear, rich voice , but she always considered herself to be primarily a drummer who sang. To this end her drumming was greatly admired by contemporaries Hal Blaine, Cubby O'Brien and Buddy Rich.

For years she suffered from the eating disorder anorexia nervosa and, due to the excessive damage it had caused her body, she died from a heart attack whilst staying at her parents home in California, less than a month before her 33rd birthday.


Others of whom I could have quite easily added to this list include the following:

Aaliyah, Billie Holliday, Celia Cruz, Dusty Springfield, Dinah Shore, Dinah Washington, Etta Baker, Eva Cassidy, Laura Brannigan, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Patsy Cline, Phillis Hyman, Janis Joplin and Sandy Denny.

Your Shout:
Who were your favourites? Who have I forgotten? I'm sure I must have made a few glaring omissions. 

Please feel free to leave a comment to remind me.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favourite singer songwriters is Judee Sill. Judee's sad, short life was quite at odds with her Laurel Canyon contemporaries, but so was her music. She recorded just two complete albums released in the early 1970's and fortunately, made a couple of TV appearances for the 'Old Grey Whistle Test' whilst touring in the UK.