Shirley Verrett, 79
Shirley Verrett began her singing career in church before transitioning into talent competitions where she garnered interest from opera aficionados. Initially declining a move from pew to stage, the diva changed her tune during her twenties and started performing as a mezzo-soprano, later morphing into a full soprano, a feat for trained vocalists. She performed such well-known arias as Carmen and Aida. Verrett’s legacy is shaped not only by her voice but also her resolve. Racial tensions left her barred from some hotels and venues throughout the South during the ’60s, but still she performed. Verrett passed due to heart failure on November 5.
James Freud, 51
Influenced by the ’70s UK punk scene, the Australian musician formed the Teenage Radio Stars. Soon after, he was recruited to play bass for The Models, serving from 1982 until the group disbanded six years later. He wrote the hit singles “Barbados” and “Out of Mind, Out of Sight.” Freud continued musical pursuits throughout the ’90s, but his main battle was with alcoholism. He penned two books chronicling his addiction and subsequent rehabilitation. On November 4, a week after The Models was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association’s Hall of Fame, Freud took his own life.
Reg King, 65
King was the lead voice of Britain’s influential mod act The Action. Their pop stylings were prevalent throughout the UK, but despite being championed and produced by The Beatles’ soundman George Martin, they remained largely overshadowed by other big acts of the 1960s such as The Who and Small Faces. King left the group in 1967 and attempted a short-lived solo career. The Action would reform in 1998 and continued to tour until 2004. King succumbed to cancer on October 8.
Jerry Bock, 81
Jerry Brock earned his stripes by writing music for the stage, winning three Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and earning an induction into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. The acclaimed composer’s contributions to Fiorello, Mr. Wonderful, and The Apple Tree alone would merit his celebration. But it was his collaboration with lyricist Sheldon Harnick that brought Broadway one of its most popular musicals, Fiddler on the Roof. Fiddler enjoyed an eight-year initial run on Broadway and continues to be performed in theatres across the globe. Bock died of heart failure on November 3.
Henryk Górecki, 76
The Polish composer’s dissonant and violent style was lauded with both admiration and criticism. After years of jarring chords and broken violin bows, Górecki focused on serenity and religion. He is best known for his work Symphony No. 3, also know as Symphony of Sorrowful Sounds, a three-part lament, which includes the writings from a concentration camp wall. He composed his Beatus Vir for Pope John Paul II for whom it was performed in Krakow upon his return following pontification. Górecki died from a lung infection on November 12, a month after receiving Poland’s highest award, The Order of the White Eagle.
Rudolf Barshai, 86
The Russian, who began his career on stringed instruments such as the violin and viola, founded the Borodin Quartet in 1945, a group that still performs today. During Barshai’s stint with the foursome he performed at dictator Joseph Stalin’s funeral. He exited the quartet in 1953 to focus on conducting and formed the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, which he led until 1977, when he emigrated out of Russia. He continued to conduct outside of his homeland and vehemently spoke out against his country’s iron-fisted treatment of its artists. Barshai passed away on November 2.
Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, 55
Industrial musician, Graphic designer
Sleazy won his nickname because of his avant-garde and often-offensive graphical design work. He had images and photographs rejected by such cutting edge musicians as Paul McCartney and the Sex Pistols. It was these rejections that helped birth his band Throbbing Gristle, the group that coined the genre “industrial music” by founding their own label, Industrial Records. Sleazy would later form the band Coil, a more organic and sexually explicit outfit. He would go on to create album art for Peter Gabriel, Rage Against the Machine and numerous other acts. Sleazy died in his sleep on November 25.
Roxana Briban, 39
Roxana Briban was a Romanian opera singer who performed in Bucharest, Bangkok, and various other cities throughout Europe, Asia and South America. In 2000, she premiered in the Bucharest National Opera’s production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. She also performed in such staples as Madame Butterfly, La Boheme and Don Giovanni. She was a staple of the Vienna State Opera from 2003 to 2010. Briban had reportedly grown depressed following the severance of her contract with the Bucharest National Opera in 2009. She took her own life on November 20.