1. We lost Bo Diddley. His three stroke, rest, two stroke invention was unique; and it was borrowed by just about everyone from Buddy Holly to Bruce Springstein to the Yardbirds to the Rollingstones. You can't play rock & roll without playing the beat of Diddley or Chuck Berry.
2. America lost the great jazz saxophonist Johnny Griffin. He played with the great ones in the 50's and the 60's then moved to France. But in 1958, he recorded "A Blowing Session" with Coltrane and others and did more than hold his own. He showed out and got props from everyone. Though he lived across the waters, he was still a jazz giant.
3. We lost Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the famous R&B group, the Four Tops. He is known for singing songs like "Reach out," "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch" and others. But the daddy's favorite was "Just ask the lonely." But Levi Stubbs also represented those groups that worked so hard to succeed, groups that worked to step in unison and sing with harmony. With these values of hard work and excellence, they were very American.
4. We lost Norman Whitfield, the songwriter/producer for Motown, the guy behind many of those hits by The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips and many more. How influential was he on Black music? Soul Patrol, an on-line site dedicated R&B, wrote: No one in the media will cover this, but this is hands down the most tragic of the losses we've sustained this year, even moreso than the loss of Isaac Hayes. No one had more influence on complete revolutionizing Motown and its transition from party music in its early days to the social relevance and taking the pulse of American culture than Norman Whitfield... Very simply, Mr. Whitfield single-handedly changed the framework of Black popular music, making the intersection between Southern soul/funk, urban cool, rock rebellion and sophisticated pop."
5. We lost Isaac Hayes, the songwriter/producer/performer who came out of Stax Records but was so influential to music and black culture in the sixties and early seventies. He wrote the music for the movie Shaft. And he recorded a number of hits and performed like a God to African Americans. He helped black people to look at themselves, big afros and all, with pride.
6. We lost Earth Kitt. Yes, she was the Catwoman on the Batman series. Yes, she did the song that people play every year around Christmas time called "Santa Baby." But she was more than a "sex kitten" with the nice legs. She was a "sassy" black woman who stood up for what she believed in. She famously spoke out against the Vietnam war before the wives of men who were running the country, including Lady Bird Johnson, the U.S. President's wife: