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A Playlist to Remember the Musicians We Lost in 2023



The 83-year-old Brazilian bossa nova singer Astrud Gilberto, who died on June 5, was best known as the serenely stylish vocalist who sang Stan Getz’s “The Girl From Ipanema.” But her discography is full of other treasures, like her lovely 1966 album of songs arranged by Gil Evans, “Look to the Rainbow,” on which this elegant, atmospheric track named for a one-stringed Brazilian instrument appears. (Listen on YouTube)

Robbie Robertson’s music had an almost eerie way of fusing the past and the present, creating compositions that sound at once rooted and untethered to linear time. This song — a Canadian musician’s evocation of Civil War-era America, with a little help from his then-Bandmate, the Arkansas-born Levon Helm — is an ambiguous document, still sparking fresh debate more than 50 years after its release. But above all it is a testament to the slippery songwriting power of Robertson, who died on Aug. 9 at 80. (Listen on YouTube)

The iconic Jane Birkin — perhaps the most quintessentially French person ever to be born outside of France — was so much more than just the namesake of a coveted Hermès bag. As a musician, too, she was more than just a coquettish co-conspirator with her onetime husband Serge Gainsbourg; she forged a long solo career that continued after they split in 1980. This orchestral, Chopin-inspired ballad is from one of their greatest collaborations, the 1969 album “Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg,” but here it’s Birkin, who died on July 16 at 76, who takes the lead. (Listen on YouTube)

Tony Bennett was a New Yorker through and through, but for the three-minute span of this classic, you could have sworn he was a Frisco kid. Bennett, who died on July 21 at 96, showed off both the crystalline purity of his voice and his ample lung power on the song that became his most recognizable standard. (Listen on YouTube)

On July 26, music lost one of its great and most uncompromising truth tellers. The piercing voice, moral courage and fierce compassion of Sinead O’Connor are all front and center on this acoustic ballad from her second album, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” a track as devastatingly relevant today as it was when she wrote it in 1990. (Listen on YouTube)

The final decade of the folk singer Sixto Rodriguez’s life was a prolonged and deserved victory lap, thanks to the Oscar-winning 2012 documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” which introduced his once-obscure music to a whole new audience. His performance of this song on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” 42 years after its release, still haunts me. (Listen on YouTube)

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