We appear to be in the home stretch of turning back this pandemic, and soon the masks and social distancing will be things of the past.
That’s the good news.
But what have we missed since March 2020 when we started down this uncharted territory? There is no one, specific catch-all type of answer to that question, largely because the past year-plus has taken its toll on everyone in different fashions.
Much of the everyday news we would have normally digested escaped us while trying to deal with all of the potential health-related problems that we have faced.
That train of thought dawned on me the other other day when I heard of the death of singer B.J. Thomas, whose 50-year career produced a plethora of awards in the pop, country and Christian music genres.
The first B.J. Thomas record I bought was “Hooked on a Feeling,” way back in 1968 when I was in love with a girl in eighth grade — for a week or so. Soon, it was another girl, and another song, but that one particular B.J. Thomas offering will always hold a soft spot in my heart. There was nothing better than junior high “romance,” which in the late 1960s meant meeting your significant other after math class and holding her hand en route to history class.
The death of B.J. Thomas, who died of lung cancer, got me wondering what other famous singers and musicians — who had filled important niches in my personal life — may have passed during the pandemic while I was concerned with things like vaccines, toilet-paper shortages and grocery pickups.
To say the least, I was surprised to find I had missed the deaths’ of most of the following:
• Mary Wilson: She was a founding member of the Supremes, the most successful girl group in pop-music history, and until a short time prior to her death was still hosting a weekly radio show playing her favorite songs. Supremes lead singer Diana Ross may have been the Babe Ruth of female Motown stars, but the highly respected Wilson was no worse than the Lou Gehrig of female soul. She died at age 76 of heart disease, leaving Ross, 77, as the only surviving member of the original Supremes. Florence Ballard died in 1978.
• Gerry Marsden: If not for the Beatles and Rolling Stones, Gerry and the Pacemakers may have been the No. 1 band emerging from Great Britain in the mid-to-late 1960s. Marsden and his band, however, succumbed to the tidal wave of popularity stirred by the Beatles and Stones and disappeared from the charts by the early 1970s. Marsden, who was 78 at the time of his death from heart problems, was the lead singer on three straight No. 1 hits, including the legendary “Ferry Cross the Mersey.”
• Eddie Van Halen: The principal songwriter and guitarist for the legendary band Van Halen, Eddie died at age 65 in October. He battled lung, tongue and throat cancer before eventually succumbing to a stroke in October. He co-founded Van Halen in 1972 with his brother and drummer, Alex Van Halen, bassist Mark Stone and singer David Lee Roth. Stone also died during the pandemic, cancer claiming him at age 79.
• Helen Reddy: The “I Am Woman” singer, who died at age 78 in September, came to be known as the feminist poster girl after that worldwide hit in 1973. Billboard magazine named her the No. 28 all-time adult contemporary artist (No. 9 woman) in 2013, the same year the Chicago Tribune labeled her as the “Queen of ‘70s Pop.”
• Kenny Rogers: The Gambler died of natural causes in the early days of the pandemic. He was 81 and had enjoyed a marvelous career that included induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Rogers’ career, which took off when he was lead singer of First Edition pop group, saw him earn more than 50 major industry awards.
Those individuals were not the only major music talents we have lost during the pandemic. Mac Davis (78), Charlie Daniels (83), Wayne Fontana (74) of Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Little Richard (87), Len Barry (78), Spencer Davis (81), Bill Withers (81), Joe Diffie (61), Trini Lopez (83), Charley Pride (86) and Chad Stuart (79) of Chad and Jeremy also passed.
There were others, too. Plenty of others. But I think you get the point. It’s been a rough year, in more ways than one.
Thank heaven there now appears to be some light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.