We’re Losing Our Icons

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Aidin Vaziri | Forget album of the year.

The highlight of the 58th annual Grammy Awards, which will be live in all time zones for the first time ever Monday on CBS, will be the In Memoriam segment, the annual photo montage honoring performers and other notable members of the music industry who have died in the past year.

Over the past few months — the past several weeks, in particular — we have lost an alarming number of rock, pop and R&B icons. There is something jarring about the succession, the rapidness with which the world is losing the architects of popular culture.

When the mournful music cues up sometime in the middle of the 58th ceremony, we will see the faces of everyone from B.B. King to Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner, to Natalie Cole to Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead. David Bowie will get his very own tribute from Lady Gaga, fresh from her performance of the national anthem at the Super Bowl. And Jackson Browne will join members of the Eagles, including Don Henley, to remember their bandmate, Glenn Frey.

The names above constitute a large, unwieldy cross-section of genres, decades and work, but the sense of loss is the same. These are the people who taught us how to dress, how to walk, how to live our lives — and they’re disappearing.

“What it says is that we’re getting further and further away from that magical generation of musicians,” says Dennis McNally, rock historian and former Grateful Dead publicist. “That’s going to stop you in your tracks and make you ponder things.”

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