As 2021 came to a close, December delivered the year’s final twists and turns.
The death of Michael Nesmith — only a month removed from the Monkees farewell tour — saddened the music world, while Chicago said a far-less-permanent goodbye to one of their longest tenured members. Meanwhile, Neil Young and Tom Morello each took reflective looks back at their respective musical relationships, while former Journey frontman Steve Perry pondered what could be next.
Read on for a full recap of December’s biggest headlines:
Michael Nesmith Dies
Less than a month after completing the Monkees farewell tour, singer, songwriter and group co-founder Michael Nesmith died on Dec. 10 at the age of 78. The musician had reportedly been determined to finish the final trek, despite his waning health. As news of Nesmith’s passing became public, many fellow rockers shared their condolences via social media, including Paul Stanley, Slash, Brian Wilson and Nesmith’s Monkees bandmate, Micky Dolenz.
Neil Young Looks Back
During a December interview with Howard Stern, Neil Young looked back on his departure from both Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The rocker noted that in both instances, his decision to leave came down to the same problem: He felt the groups “started drifting away” from the reason he first became a member. “I didn’t break up with music; I didn’t break up with love. … I just wanted [the music] to be nurtured. I wanted to take care of it. If the love was suffering because the situation wasn’t right, I wanted to take the love somewhere else where it would do better,” Young explained.
Chicago’s Longest-Tenured Guitarist Quits
After almost 27 years in Chicago, guitarist Keith Howland announced his retirement in early December. Howland’s decision was due to an accident that left him temporarily unable to play. “I broke my arm just before we were supposed to go on stage in Louisville,” he explained in a post to Facebook. “I have given serious thought in the last few weeks and honestly as to what my future might look like. I can’t play the guitar right now, and it’s probably going to be several months before I can get back to anything normal.” The rocker then revealed that, “at this point, I have decided to move on to the next chapter in my life.”
Steve Perry Ponders a Residency
In a December interview with UCR, former Journey frontman Steve Perry admitted he would “love nothing more than to be on stage again.” To that end, the vocalist revealed he’d considered various scenarios, including some kind of residency. “It’s been discussed, but nothing has been put together yet,” Perry revealed. “I’m a spur of the moment guy. You never know — you might just see me in a nightclub singing a couple of Christmas songs.”
Tom Morello Recalls Chris Cornell Having ‘One Foot in the Shadows’
In an early December interview, Tom Morello looked back on his friendship with Chris Cornell. Specifically, the Rage Against the Machine rocker recalled a dark moment that would later inspire one of his solo songs. “Long before Chris passed, [there] was kind of a tumultuous time when he’d gone missing for a while,” Morello explained. “In the middle of the night after being missing for a month – or three months, or however long it was – he sent me a text that said, ‘If you swallow a coin from the wishing well, your dreams will come true in heaven or hell.’ I used that lyric as the centerpiece in this song for my friend who had one foot in the shadows.” The track, titled “The Garden of Gethsemane,” later appeared on Morello’s 2007 LP One Man Revolution.
In Memoriam: 2021 Deaths
Remembering the musicians, actors, producers and others who have died in 2021.