SOUND CHECK: Illustrious sounds live on

So many great artists have passed away over the years, and it is a shame they aren’t still around today making music. Imagine what Tupac would have to say if he was still alive or the potential Aaliyah could have reached. Two names that automatically come to my mind as great, modern songwriters who are no longer with us are Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash.

Cash was way ahead of his time and against the grain of conventional country of the era. While others were singing gospel, Cash opted to go rebel. There was always a sense of rock ‘n’ roll in Cash’s country songs, mixed with blues and bluegrass.

"The Man in Black" collaborated with the likes of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis and U2 in his storied career. Cash was never afraid to think outside the box, even covering the Nine Inch Nails’ song, "Hurt" as one of his last recordings before passing away at the age of 71.

Another visionary who wasn’t afraid to stretch the boundaries of his genre, was The Clash’s Joe Strummer. The Clash was the first band to incorporate outside sounds to punk. Strummer brought in his love for reggae, dub and dance hall with the band’s brand of English rock. The Clash always proved punk rock didn’t always have to sound fast and loud, rather the message behind the music was more important.

Strummer’s songs rallying against racism, inequality, social injustice and militarism set the standard for politics in punk and future protest music. After The Clash, Strummer played with The Mescaleros, and in 2003 Streetcore was released posthumously. Strummer and Cash even paid homage to another fallen legend, Bob Marley, both doing a duet cover of "Redemption Song."

Mike Damante

In honor of Halloween and el Dia de las Muertos, Sound Check has decided to remind you of a handful of musicians who have passed away, and have personally impacted our personal music taste. That being said, The Notorious B.I.G., however typical of a choice it may be, immediately comes to mind.

The King of Brooklyn never really got his chance to shine, as only one of his albums, Ready to Die, was not released posthumously. Regardless, the emcee is readily hailed as a top 5 hip-hop artist, and is one of the most influential of all time. Biggie Smalls christened a musical style and swagger that was crass and classy, while possessing one of the smoothest flows in hip-hop history.

Ready to Die is easily one of the best albums of all time, in any genre. Paired with Nas’ Illmatic, the two albums became crowning achievements of East-Coast rap and have since been deemed classics. One can only imagine the effect Notorious B.I.G. could’ve had on the music industry if he were still around.

Switching up the gears a bit, Elliott Smith is another artist who comes to mind as far as timeless musicians who have passed. Smith was almost too textbook of an artist. His career seemed to have run its course, he had a classic struggle between fame, his personal life and addictions, and found an ending similar to that of Kurt Cobain’s.

Smith released several landmark albums in his time, namely XO and Figure 8, the latter of which would be his last album before his suicide. The singer-songwriter’s delivery was earnest, and his songwriting was some of the most personal and honest. Smith is commonly listed as an influence amongst the plethora of singer-songwriters playing indie folk-rock today. His posthumous release From a Basement on a Hill, although unfinished at the time of his death, was released to favorable reviews.

Although his career was a bit lengthy and arguably fulfilled, it would have been nice to see someone appreciated for his work while he was still alive.

Roshan Bhatt

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