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Remembering the Music Heroes We Lost to COVID-19

The global music community mourns the passing of Adam Schlesinger, Alan Merrill and more

Rolling Stone India Apr 03, 2020

Muscians Alan Merrill (left) and Adam Schlesinger both lost their lives due to the coronavirus. Photos: Wikimedia Commons

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As the world continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic, among many that have lost their lives due to the disease have also been musicians. When an artist is taken away from us, they might be gone physically, but because they sang their song while on earth, they’ve left us with plenty of memories that will forever play in their remembrance and talent.

This past week the news broke that American musician Alan Merrill – who co-wrote the hit track “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” performed by English band Arrows and popularized by American artist Joan Jett – passed away at 69. In a Facebook post shared by his daughter Laura, she wrote, “He played down the ‘cold’ he thought he had. You don’t think It’ll happen to you or your strong family. It has.” She added, “Stay home if not for you, for others. For my dad. This thing is real.”

Co-founder of the New Jersey power-pop group Fountains of Wayne and Emmy-and Grammy-winning songwriter for film, television, and theater, Adam Schlesinger who was 52 died from complications related to COVID-19. Schlesinger’s lawyer, Josh Grier, confirmed the musician’s death to Rolling Stone. Schlesinger was hospitalized in March and tested positive for the coronavirus. At the time, he was placed on a ventilator and heavily sedated.

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New-wave U.S. pop singer Cristina Monet-Zilkha who was diagnosed with coronavirus was 61 at the time of her passing. The “Things Fall Apart” hitmaker’s demise was confirmed by her friend and UC Berkeley professor Steve Wasserman in a Facebook post which stated that she was experiencing a high fever. He wrote, “Her lungs were clear. Then, with appalling swiftness, she was gone this morning.”

New Orleans jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr. lost his life at 85 battling pneumonia which was aggravated due to the coronavirus. The musician’s son Ellis Marsalis III confirmed his father’s death in an interview with the Associated Press. He said, “Pneumonia was the actual thing that caused his demise. But it was pneumonia brought on by COVID-19.”

African saxophonist Manu Dibango succumbed to the coronavirus in Paris. He was 86. The musician – who mixed jazz and funk with traditional Cameroon sonic elements – was known best for his 1972 magnum opus “Soul Makossa.” A statement on the artist’s official Facebook page read, “It is with deep sadness that we announce you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove.”

It was revealed by a spokesperson that country musician Joe Diffie, who had numerous Number Ones in the Nineties, died from complications related to the coronavirus. Diffie was 61. The statement read, “Grammy-winning country music legend Joe Diffie passed away today, Sunday, March 29, from complications of coronavirus (COVID-19). It further said, “His family respects their privacy at this time.”

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Wallace Roney, a bandleader and trumpeter who was bred in Philadelphia passed away at 59 while British-Jamaican artist Delroy Washington who was a pioneer for the U.K. reggae scene was 67 before losing his life to the coronavirus pandemic.

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