Looking back, this past decade wasn't too kind to rock and roll as a whole. We lost plenty of people who weren't exactly disgustingly huge as Michael Jackson or as monolithic as Johnny Cash. This decade took its share of people who were massively influential and iconic, but not on the grand world radar. It seemed like blues and punk rock took the biggest hits, with Lux Interior and John Lee Hooker both moving on to the next astral plane.
Ray Charles (June 10, 2004)
We promise we didn't forget about Mr. Charles. It is kinda hard to pack ten departed people from a decade awash in legendary passings. The seminal pianist and soul pioneer saw a marked resurgence in popularity after his death in June 2004, with his biopic Ray
earning Jamie Foxx an Oscar and that fall's five-times platinum Genius Loves Company
album topping the charts. The release paired Charles with modern artists like Diana Krall and Norah Jones, along with Elton John and James Taylor.
Waylon Jennings (February 13, 2002)
Country music lost plenty of its best and brightest artists this decade. Between Johnny Cash and Buck Owens, the passing of Waylon Jennings in February 2002 saw the end of a golden era. Jennings was one of the original outlaw twangers, embodying the title in his music and personal life. He had bouts of drug addiction and his beating the demon powders only seemed to make his music all the more honest and real.
His son Shooter Jennings continues the old man's work, bringing his father's music to whole new younger audiences. The elder Jennings cheated death in 1959 when he switched seats with Buddy Holly on the fateful night of the plane crash that killed Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.
Warren Zevon (September 7, 2003)
Few singer-songwriters had the ability to intimate parts of the human condition the way Warren Zevon did. Each of his compositions were like miniature graphic novels with sordid characters and acts that could make you laugh and cry. When he found out he had cancer in 2002, he took action in the only way he knew how by writing songs about his experience. He recorded the funereal The Wind
with special guests Don Henley, Jackson Browne and Tom Petty providing background vocals and instrumentation, and died just two weeks after the album's release.
Layne Staley (April 5, 2002)
In the early '90s, Alice In Chains was the one of the most morbid of the big grunge bands. Their songs were steeped in addiction and death imagery, mostly written by lead singer Layne Staley and guitarist Jerry Cantrell. As time went on, the band's music got more aggressive and each track saw Staley exercising his anger at his addiction. He started a slow decline that finally ended with his body being discovered in April 2002 by police. For a man who had so many friends and acolytes, few people attempted to save him.