May 1981 in Music History

Events in Music

  • May 3 "Can-Can" closes at Minskoff Theater NYC after 5 performances
  • May 6 A. Marcus Hemphill's stage comedy "Inacent Black", starring Melba Moore and Reginald Vel Johnson, opens at Biltmore Theater, NYC; runs for 14 performances

Music Premiere

May 11 Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Cats" (based on poetry by T. S. Eliot) directed by Trevor Nunn, opens at the New London Theatre in the West End, London; runs for 8,949 performances

  • May 12 "Lena Horne: Lady, Music" opens at Nederlander, NYC: runs for 333 performances

Music Single

May 15 George Harrison releases single "All Those Years Ago" in UK: the song was a tribute to John Lennon, and featured Ringo Starr on drums, and Paul and Linda McCartney on backing vocals

#1 in the Charts

May 16 "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes hits #1 for next 9 weeks

  • May 17 A. Marcus Hemphill's stage comedy "Inacent Black", starring Melba Moore and Reginald Vel Johnson, closes at Biltmore Theater, NYC, after 14 performances

Music History

May 21 Reggae musician Bob Marley receives a Jamaican state funeral

Birthdays in Music

  • May 3 Farrah Franklin, American singer (former member of Destiny's Child), born in Los Angeles, California

Craig DavidCraig David (42 years old)

May 5 English R&B singer-songwriter ("7 Days"; "Insomnia"), born in Southampton, Hampshire, England

  • May 6 Mark O'Connell, American drummer (Taking Back Sunday)
  • May 6 Matthew Leone, American rock bassist (Madina Lake), born in Chicago, Illinois
  • May 6 Nathan Leone, American rock singer (Madina Lake), born in Chicago, Illinois
  • May 7 Maria Radner, German operatic contralto, specializing in Wagner, born in Düsseldorf, West Germany (d. 2015)
  • May 8 Björn Dixgård, Swedish rock guitarist and singer (Mando Daio), born in Falun, Sweden
  • May 12 Asmik Grigorian, Lithuanian operatic soprano, in born Vilnius, Lithuania
  • May 12 Kentaro Sato, Japanese television, video game, classical, and choral composer (Requiem Pacis - Requiem of Peace), and conductor, born in Hamamatsu, Japan

Rami MalekRami Malek (42 years old)

May 12 American actor (Bohemian Rhapsody), born in Los Angeles, California

  • May 14 Sarbel [Michael Maronitis], British-Cypriot pop singer ("Se Pira Sovara"), born in London, England
  • May 17 Shiri Maimon, Israeli pop singer, and television personality, born in Haifa, Israel
  • May 18 Vincent Houdijk, Dutch jazz vibraphonist and bandleader (VinnieVibes), born in The Netherlands
  • May 19 Nate Cole, American singer-songwriter (Plus One; Castledoor), born in Houston, Texas
  • May 20 Rachel Platten, American singer-songwriter (“Fight Song”), born in New York City
  • May 21 Max Mutzke, German funk-pop-soul singer-songwriter and musician ("Can't Wait Until Tonight"), born in Waldshut-Tiengen, Germany
  • May 23 Gwenno Saunders, Welsh dancer and singer (The Pipettes)
  • May 26 Eda-Ines Etti, Estonian pop singer (Eurovision), born in Haapsalu, Estonia
  • May 26 Irini Merkouri, Greek-Romani pop and laïka singer, born in Ilion, Greece
  • May 26 Isaac Sladen, American vocalist, pianist, and songwriter (The Fray - "How To Save A Life"; "You Found Me"), born in Boulder, Colorado
  • May 27 Özgür Çevik, Turkish pop singer (Star Academy), and actor, born in Ankara, Turkey
  • May 28 Adam Green, American anti-folk singer-songwriter, born in Mount Kisco, New York
  • May 30 Devendra Banhart, Venezulan-American singer-songwriter (Cripple Crow), born in Houston, Texas

Deaths in Music

  • May 7 Mieczyslaw Kolinski, Polish-Canadian composer (Encounterpoint), educator, and ethno-musicologist, dies at 79

Bob MarleyBob Marley (1945-1981)

May 11 Jamaican reggae musician ("Exodus"; "One Love"; "No Woman No Cry"; "Three Little Birds"), dies of brain and lung cancer at 36

  • May 13 Carl Weinrich, American organist and composer, dies at 76
  • May 16 Ernie Freeman, American musician (Raunchy), pianist and arranger, dies at 58
  • May 17 Hugo Friedhofer, American cellist and film and television composer, dies at 80
  • May 23 George Jessel, American stage and screen actor, singer, producer and host known as "The Toastmaster General", dies of a heart attack at 83
  • May 25 Rosa Ponselle [Ponzillo], American soprano opera diva ("Casta Diva"; La Forza del Destino - "Leonora"; Metropolitan Opera, 1918-37), dies at 84
  • May 25 Roy Brown, American R&B singer, songwriter ("Good Rockin' Tonight"), dies of a heart attack at 55
  • May 28 Mary Lou Williams, American jazz pianist and composer (Zodiac Suite), dies at 71