Saturday, 31 December 2016

99 NOTABLE DEATHS OF 2016

Aside from our personal losses, 2016 was the year when everyone apparently began to socially mediate the death of beloved others - famous people known universally, or to many. No other year - not even 2001 - since the new century began, has been so reviled by those living in it. Fuck you 2016 was a common refrain.  The year almost became a running joke, coming to symbolise all that was mean, unfair, cruel and random about existence - it was the most existential year in decades. certainly, the death of so many talented, brilliant and creative persons underlined the compelling fact that WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE, SOONER OR LATER, no matter what. So we better get right with ourselves, the world, and decide how best to deal with the fate we have been thrown - stoicism advised.

Claims that no more well-known people died than usual this year are basically besides the point (THOUGH the BBC now reports 50% more celebrities died this year than in any other on record) - in the sense that it did not feel this way to us, the popular common folk, mourning our losses and grave wounds. But more accurately, those of us born in the 1960s or later, for the first time, experienced the deaths of key figures of the 60s, 70s and 80s - icons in the least-exaggerated sense of the term.

It is true that Elvis, Monroe, Dean, Kennedy, Sinatra, Lennon, Heaney, Plath, Derrida, Kubrick, Ginsberg, Warhol, Lou Reed, Michael Jackson, for example, had died previously - but never all in one year. It took decades, once, it seemed, for the truly great, pivotal, or merely loved, to die in droves - not this year.

For instance, these 99 were culturally notable losses *(some of the figures are of course controversial):

1.     AA GILL – sometimes cruel, well-respected British food and TV critic;


2.     ABE VIGODA – popular TV and film actor perhaps best known for Barney Miller;

3.     ALAN RICKMAN - versatile actor, unlikely sex symbol, and film villain in major franchises, from Die Hard to Harry Potter, he memorably "cancelled Christmas" in his bravura role in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves;

4.     ALICE ARLEN – American screenwriter best-known for Silkwood;

5.     AMBER RAYNE – American pornographic actress;

6.     ANDREW GLAZE – American poet who often appeared in Poetry;

7.     ANDRZEJ WAJDA - great Polish film director;

8.     ANITA BROOKNER - Booker-winning novelist;

9.     ANTON YELCHIN – popular young actor famous for reprising the role of Checkov in the Star Trek franchise;

10.                 ANTONIN SCALIA - notoriously conservative Supreme Court Justice;

11.                 ARNOLD PALMER - one of golf's leading players of all time;

12.                 AV CHRISTIE – American poet of note;

13.                 BARBARA TURNER – actress and screenwriter best-known for Pollock;

14.                 BARRY HINES – British novelist behind the novel that became the beloved film Kes;

15.                 BERNARD BERGONZI - important British literary critic and scholar;

16.                 BLACK – singer-songwriter famous for the ‘Wonderful Life’ song;

17.                 BRIAN BEDFORD – charismatic British stage actor who did much of his best work in Canada;

18.                 BRIGIT PEGEEN KELLY - brilliant American poet;

19.                 BUCKWHEAT ZYDECO - bandleader, accordionist, made famous by working with Paul Simon on the masterpiece Graceland;

20.                 CARRIE FISHER - the most iconic character of the most beloved American film of all time - and a leading feminist voice in Hollywood;

21.                 CD WRIGHT – major American poet;

22.                 CHARMIAN CARR - actress famed for her role in The Sound of Music;

23.                 DAME ZAHA HADID – key post-modern architect;

24.                 DARIO FO - Nobel winner for literature, major playwright;

25.                 DAVID BOWIE - the leading musician of his generation, a genius and hugely influential on all music since 1970;

26.                 DEBBIE REYNOLDS - hugely popular actress, who starred in the finest film musical of all time, Singin' In The Rain;

27.                 DG JONES – significant Canadian poet and translator;

28.                 EARL HAMNER JR. - creator of beloved and much-lampooned TV series The Waltons;

29.                 EDWARD ALBEE - arguably America's greatest absurdist playwright;

30.                 ELIE WIESEL - Nobel laureate; famed concentration camp survivor and public intellectual;

31.                 FAROUK SHOUSHA - Egyptian poet;

32.                 FIDEL CASTRO - one of the most famous revolutionary leaders of the 20th century;

33.                 FLORENCE HENDERSON - beloved TV icon from The Brady Bunch;

34.                 FRANCA SOZZANI - influential editor of Vogue (Italy) for decades;

35.                 FRANK ARMITAGE - important Disney artist;

36.                 FRANK SINATRA, JR - less-distinguished singer than his father;

37.                 GARRY SHANDLING - creator of The Larry Sanders show - and one of the most influential comedians of the past 30 years;

38.                 GARY MARSHALL - creator of hit TV shows of immense cultural clout, like Happy Days and Mork and Mindy; and force behind Pretty Woman;

39.                 GEOFFREY HILL - considered by many the major poet of the English language;

40.                 GEORGE JONAS – Canadian writer whose novel was the basis for Spielberg’s Munich;

41.                 GEORGE KENNEDY – one of the greatest of American character actors, often playing the heavy, he tough guy, cop or soldier; famous for spoofing his roles in Airplane!;

42.                 SIR GEORGE MARTIN - the "fifth Beatle" - the most influential and significant music producer since 1950;

43.                 GEORGE MICHAEL - one of the most popular and best-selling musicians of the last 30 years;

44.                 GLENN FREY - key member of the major American group The Eagles;

45.                 GREG LAKE- seminal British prog-rock figure;

46.                 GUY HAMILTON - director of the greatest Bond film, Goldfinger;

47.                 HARPER LEE - quite possibly the most beloved American author at the time of her death;

48.                 HENRY HEIMLICH - inventor of the world-famous eponymous lifesaving technique;

49.                 JACK ELROD – cartoonist and creator of Mark Trail;

50.                 JACK HAMMER – singer-songwriter best-known for co-writing the great rock and roll anthem ‘Great Balls of Fire’;

51.                 JIM CLARK – Oscar-winning British film editor;

52.                 JIM HARRISON - hard-living, popular US novelist and poet, famous for Legends of the Fall;

53.                 JOHN GLENN - iconic US astronaut and politician;

54.                 JOHN MONTAGUE - one of the greatest of all Irish poets;

55.                 JON POLITO - character actor famed for major roles in Coen Bro. films.

56.                 KEITH EMERSON - seminal British prog-rock figure;

57.                 SIR KEN ADAM - most influential film set designer of the modern era, creating the sets for Dr Stranglelove, and the James Bond villain's lairs;

58.                 KENNY BAKER - famed for playing R2-D2 in Star Wars;

59.                 LARRY DRAKE – Emmy-winning American actor;

60.                 LEONARD COHEN - a key counter-culture figure of the 60s, 70s and beyond - to many, the finest singer-songwriter never to win the Nobel for Literature;

61.                 MARGARET FORSTER – British novelist famed for Georgy Girl;

62.                 MARION PATRICK JONES – vital Trinidadian writer and activist;

63.                 MAURICE WHITE – major soul singer-songwriter, with Earth, Wind and Fire;

64.                 MEL HURTIG - progressive Canadian publisher;

65.                 MICHAEL CIMINO - major American director, famous for The Deer Hunter.

66.                 MICHEL TOURNIER – major French writer;

67.                 MUHAMMAD ALI - a moral force, and considered by many the finest athlete of modern times;

68.                 NANCY REAGAN – one of the most influential, and controversial, of modern First Ladies;

69.                 SIR NEVILLE MARRINER - leading British conductor;

70.                 PETE BURNS – infamous Dead Or Alive singer;

71.                 P├ęter Esterhazy - major Hungarian writer;

72.                 SIR PETER MAXWELL DAVIES - the major British composer of his generation;

73.                 SIR PETER SHAFFER - playwright and screenwriter, responsible for modern classics Amadeus and Equus;

74.                 PHIL CHESS - co-founder of the influential R and B, blues and rock label, Chess Records;

75.                 PIERRE BOULEZ - the major French avant-garde composer of his generation; a great conductor;

76.                 PJ MARA - Ireland's most famous political press secretary of the modern Haughey era;

77.                 PRINCE - the greatest and most prolific musical genius of rock and pop of his 80s generation;

78.                 PRINCE BUSTER - the seminal Ska pioneer;

79.                 RICHARD ADAMS - author of the beloved classic Watership Down, which has sold over 50 million copies;

80.                 RICK PARFITT - a great rock guitarist and key member of top UK band the Status Quo;

81.                 ROBERT BATEMAN - songwriter of rock n roll classics such as 'Please Mr Postman';

82.                 ROBERT STIGWOOD – influential musical impresario, manager, and producer of Grease and Saturday Night Fever;

83.                 ROBERT VAUGHN - priapic actor best known for his iconic TV role in The Man from UNCLE;

84.                 ROBIN HARDY - director of possibly the greatest British horror film The Wicker Man;

85.                 ROD TEMPERTON - British songwriter of genius, who composed most of the best-selling seminal Thriller album for Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson.

86.                 RONNIE CORBETT - one half of the funniest comedy duo of their time, Ronnie was also a decent and generous person in private;

87.                 SHARON JONES - beloved singer for the soul revival group The Dap-Kings;

88.                 SHIRLEY JAFFE - abstract expressionist artist;

89.                 SYLVIA ANDERSON – co-creator of Thunderbirds, and voice of Lady Penelope;

90.                 STANLEY MANN – Canadian screenwriter who wrote or co-wrote scripts for popular films such as The Mouse That Roared, Firestarter, The Omen 2, Meteor and Eye of the Needle.

91.                 TAMMY GRIMES - award-winning US stage actress;

92.                 THORNTON DIAL – African-American artist of note;

93.                 UMBERTO ECCO - one of the leading European post-modern novelists of the age;

94.                 VERA RUBIN – major scientist who discovered dark matter;

95.                 VILMOS SZIGMOND – cinematographer of classics like Easy Rider and Close Encounters of The Third Kind, pioneer of sunburst effect;

96.                 WILLIAM TREVOR - one of the best Irish prose writers of the 20th century.

97.                 WP KINSELLA - leading Canadian prose writer;

98.                 YVES BONNEFOY - major French poet;

99.                 ZSA ZSA GABOR - TV and film actress, glamorous wit, comedienne, and world-famous divorcee.




* every death is equally tragic - the end of a world, as Derrida famously put it. These are just a few of the millions who died this year, a small but pertinent focusing on some lives that touched many others.







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