You might have heard that Michael Jackson died recently. No, really — he did. I was of the generation that had Thriller shoved down our throats, and that’s spoiled any appreciation I might have had of Jackson’s talents. People say that Off the Wall is a good record and maybe that’s so. As for his personal life, well, David Walsh of the WSWS wrote a quite sympathetic obituary that’s worth reading.

Anyway, the coverage in recent days got me thinking about musicians whose deaths really did affect me. Our reaction to pop music is very personal, perhaps more so than other arts. It’s difficult to think about a song or a band without remembering the first time you heard them, and thus a whole raft of other associations. Quite possibly, the list below will leave everyone else cold. Well, so be it.

Joe Strummer (2002 )

This solo version of the Clash’s best song is utterly fantastic.

Bim Sherman (2000)

Bim Sherman never really achieved the success he deserved. He had an utterly distinctive voice that featured on a whole slew of On U sound records for over a decade. Probably his most notable achievement was the solo album Miracle, in which he cut a bunch of his early roots songs in an acoustic fashion, accompanied by Indian percussion. Great, great record.

Joseph Hill (2006)

There’s a lot been written about the influence of reggae on punk (there’s a recently interesting article about John Lydon’s musical tastes here) but not enough about the influence of punk on reggae. I think you can hear a lot of punk in Culture, Joseph Hill’s band. This is a truly epic song.

Augustus Pablo (1999)

Augustus Pablo took the melodica, previously regarded mostly as a toy, and turned it into a crucial aspect of roots dub. I couldn’t find any decent quality footage of him live but this track is a masterpiece.

OK. That’s enough. Am starting to get depressed.

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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