When it came to musicians, the roll call of the dead was unusually long and devastating in 2016. It was the year the music died.

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The elegy started in early January with the passing of David Bowie, a visionary artist who had the foresight to release a mortality-themed swan song, Blackstar, a few days before he died. Eight days later, Glenn Frey was gone, signaling the final farewell of the Eagles.

In April, Prince died of an overdose of the opioid painkiller fentanyl -- the irony being that he was the rare rock star who disavowed all drugs and alcohol. Leonard Cohen, whose "Hallelujah" had been played at many a requiem, had his own funeral in November. The year came to a sad end with the Christmas Day death of '80s pop giant George Michael.

Texas and Oklahoma suffered some major musical losses. Guy Clark, a giant of Texas country-folk, died in May. Country legend Merle Haggard, the self-proclaimed "Okie from Muskogee," died in April, and fellow Oklahoman Leon Russell passed away in November.

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No genre was spared from mourning. R&B fans said farewell to Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, Parliament-Funkadelic co-founder Bernie Worrell and soul singer Sharon Jones. Hip-hop bid adieu to Prince Be from P.M. Dawn and Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest. Latin music lost one of its best-selling singers, Juan Gabriel.

The jazz world paid its last respects to pianist Mose Allison, clarinetist Pete Fountain and harmonica ace Toots Thielemans. And guitarists everywhere marked the passing of six-string pioneers Lonnie Mack and Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley's hard-driving right-hand man.

The year was so brutal it claimed the lives of multiple members of the same band. Emerson, Lake & Palmer lost two-thirds of its roster -- Keith Emerson in March and Greg Lake in December. Jefferson Airplane lost two founders on the very same day: Paul Kantner and original singer Signe Toly Anderson both died on Jan. 28.

Some of the year's more notable deaths weren't musicians per se, but movers and shakers behind the musicians.

The list includes SXSW co-founder Louis Meyers, Beatles producer George Martin, Chess Records co-founder Phil Chess. 

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Add legendary managers Bill Ham (ZZ Top), Robert Stigwood (Bee Gees) and Giorgio Gomelsky (Yardbirds, Rolling Stones) to the list.

When the final note of 2016 fades, the coda won't come a moment too soon. This was one year music fans are ready to forget.

Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic. Email him at thorchris2@yahoo.com.

Notable music deaths in 2016

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  • Dec. 25, George Michael, 53, heart failure
  • Dec. 7, Greg Lake, 69, cancer
  • Nov. 18, Sharon Jones, 60, cancer
  • Nov. 15, Mose Allison, 89, undisclosed
  • Nov. 13, Leon Russell, 74, heart disease
  • Nov. 7, Leonard Cohen, 82, complications from a fall
  • Nov. 3, Kay Starr, 94, complications of Alzheimer's disease
  • Oct. 24, Bobby Vee, 73, complications of Alzheimer's disease
  • Oct. 23, Pete Burns (singer for Dead Or Alive), 57, heart attack
  • Oct. 18, Phil Chess, 95, undisclosed
  • Sept. 8, Prince Buster, 78, stroke
  • Aug. 28, Juan Gabriel,  66, heart attack
  • Aug. 22, Toots Thielemans, 94, undisclosed
  • Aug. 11, Glenn Yarbrough (The Limeliters), 86, complications of dementia
  • Aug. 6, Pete Fountain, 86, heart failure
  • June 29, Rob Wasserman, 64, undisclosed
  • June 28, Scotty Moore, 84, undisclosed
  • June 24, Bernie Worrell (Parliament-Funkadelic), 72, cancer
  • June 23, Ralph Stanley, 89, skin cancer
  • June 20, Bill Ham (ZZ Top, Clint Black manager), 79, undisclosed
  • June 17, Prince Be (P.M. Dawn), 46, kidney failure
  • June 13, Chips Moman, 79, emphysema
  • May 17, Guy Clark, 74, lymphoma
  • April 24, Billy Paul, 81, pancreatic cancer
  • April 21, Lonnie Mack, 74, undisclosed
  • April 21, Prince, 57, fentanyl overdose
  • April 6, Merle Haggard, 79, pneumonia
  • March 22, Phife Dawg (A Tribe Called Quest), 45, complications of diabetes
  • March 16, Frank Sinatra, Jr., 72, heart attack
  • March 11, Louis Meyers (SXSW co-founder), 60, heart attack
  • March 11, Keith Emerson, 71, suicide
  • March 8, George Martin, 90, undisclosed
  • Feb. 15, Vanity, 57, kidney failure
  • Feb. 4, Maurice White (Earth, Wind and Fire), 74, Parkinson's disease
  • Feb. 6, Dan Hicks, 74, cancer
  • Jan. 28, Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane), 74, complications of a heart attack
  • Jan. 28, Signe Toly Anderson (Jefferson Airplane), 74, lung disease
  • Jan. 18, Glenn Frey, 67, complications of pneumonia following gastrointestinal surgery
  • Jan. 13, Giorgio Gomelsky (Rolling Stones, Yardbirds manager), 81, cancer
  • Jan. 10, David Bowie, 69, liver cancer
  • Jan. 8, Otis Clay, 73, heart attack
  • Jan. 4, Long John Hunter, 84, undisclosed
  • Jan. 4, Robert Stigwood (Cream, Bee Gees manager), 81, undisclosed

Updated Dec. 27 at 7:20 a.m.: Revised to include a sentence about and the cause of death for George Michael.

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