A year of goodbyes to many music icons

Gary Matheny
Posted 12/10/17

“Only the good die young! That’s what I said. Only the good die young!”The words are from singer/songwriter Billy Joel, and the song was released back in May 1978.Mere lyrics, thoughts that …

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A year of goodbyes to many music icons


“Only the good die young! That’s what I said. Only the good die young!”

The words are from singer/songwriter Billy Joel, and the song was released back in May 1978.

Mere lyrics, thoughts that come to mind as a writer who is expressing his feelings about a person or something that has happened in their life.

However, I don’t feel that only the good die young. Granted, we have seen life lost at a young age and it is tragic how people and their talents are never fully developed before they are taken from us.

The year of 2017 has been a year of lost talent, but not necessarily young talent.

Talent from all aspects of society — from entertainment to friends and family — has been taken away from us, but I would like to look closer at the music industry.

Fats Domino, Mel Tillis, Glen Campbell, Gregg Allman, Don Williams and Tom Petty, just to name a few, have left us and we all feel that it was way too early.

Antoine Domino ... Fats ... a man who made a name singing, "Ain't it a Shame" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll," and the man that told us of the thrill he lost on Blueberry Hill, left us at the age of 89.

Mel Tillis, country music legend who could hardly speak a word without stuttering but sang beautifully, died at the age of 85. He could sing a song in the most melodious fashion, never allowing his speaking handicap to get in the way.

Glen Campbell, the Rhinestone Cowboy, rode quietly into the sunset at 81, only to sing and play that magnificent guitar for a new audience. He performed till he just couldn’t do it any longer, but had the energy to record his final album, "Adios,"  earlier this year.

I remember seeing Glen once back in the '90s on a Delta connector flight from Atlanta as we landed at the airport in Macon, Ga.

It was a small plane with approximately 30 seats. He was sitting in the front aisle, the bulkhead. 

As I was making my way to the door to exit, we exchanged glances. He was wearing casual clothing so he could blend with other people.

Our eyes met and I will never forget the look he gave me as he realized I had recognized him. A look of plea hoping I would not say anything. I simply smiled and proceeded to exit the aircraft.

Tom Petty left us at the early age of 66. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers ... they were Free Fallin', but not off the record charts. 

Tom took up with George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison, and formed the Traveling Wilburys collaboration. Now only Bob Dylan is left to share the talent.

Greg Allman ... what else can I say about Greg that I haven’t already shared with you in other stories? A talented musician with a raspy, soulful voice that intrigued the world. 

I read his book, “My Cross To Bear,” a detailed story about the formation of the band and the issues that kept the group in turmoil.

I love the story of how he came up with the name for his hit song, "Melissa."

It seems he could not find the correct name for the lady he had written about until one night, while shopping for something in a grocery store, he heard a woman with a Latin accent calling her little girl.

"Melissa, Melissa ...," she called and he smiled as he found the women and thanked her for the name he had been searching for.

Butch Trucks left us a few months before Gregg. He was a founding member, and one of the drummers of the Allman Brothers. Trucks, 69, had taken his own life.

My favorite singer is Don Williams. I love Don’s work; his soft baritone voice and melodic songs made me envious that I could not be that good of a musician.

His songs were stories that you could actually feel when he was singing.

"What’ll You Do with Good Ole Boys Like Me," "Lord, I hope This Day Is Good" and "Tulsa Time" are only a few of the great hits this fabulous musician gave us.

David Cassidy is the most recent to leave us at 67. He was a '60s pop idol and the females loved his good looks. I liked his sound. 

He was what all the rockers like myself wanted to be: onstage, with a lot of hair and a pop idol.

His hit song, "I Woke Up In Love This Morning," was a song for the time.

Yes, there are others: Walter Becker, Steely Dan, Malcolm Young, AC/DC, Robert Knight ("Ever Lasting Love"), Al Jarreau and Wayne Cochran ("Last Kiss") ... have all said goodbye to their fan base this year.

Musicians do more than just sing and entertain. Most, the ones that write, tell a story that resonates in their soul. 

They share with the world how they see life or love. Their music is what makes them function or exist. They are storytellers of the day.

In the grand scheme of things, all of us who lived through the '60s are old rockers in some fashion.

One day, I know most of us will have front-row seats to the biggest music festival ever to be held. When the curtain opens and the music starts, we will all feel as though Woodstock is  starting over again.


(About the writer:  Gary Matheny is retired after a long career in the pharmaceutical industry.  Now a Cleveland resident, he is the author of two books: "If The Shoe Fits" and "The Bullet." He also writes a popular blog, "Life Happens." Email him at and follow him at his website


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