Be sure to check out our audio tribute to artists that passed away in 2016 as well. After a year where it seemed like death knocked on the celebrity doorstep everyday, Andrew steps back a month later to remember those who passed away.
Death. It’s a part of life. Over 150,000 people die every day. In fact, 55 million people die each year. And each year, numerous celebrities die. For lack of a better term, the “In Memorium” segment of yearly awards shows is one of the most popular. It gives us a chance to remember and reflect on those we lost over the past year. So why is it that this past year of 2016 seemed like a giant shit show and we lost more celebrities than usual? Here are some of my theories. We lost a lot of celebs that were in their 50’s & 60’s, perhaps we feel that they had much more to contribute to the world. We lost some icons this year, those always stand out. For those of us Gen Xers, we lost a lot of celebrities we grew up watching and they were part of our childhood and adolescences. They say celebrities die in three’s, it felt more like five’s this past year.
Let’s take a look back at those we lost over the past year, say a few kind words and mention some of their essential work that made them so special.
David Bowie (1/10/16) – An incredible, talented musician that continued to re-invent himself throughout his career that spanned decades. Growing up in the MTV-era of the 1980’s, my first exposure of David Bowie was the Let’s Dance album released in 1983 with the singles “Let’s Dance”, “China Girl” & “Modern Love.” But I then went and discovered his earlier work including the timeless classics, “Rebel Rebel”, “Heroes”, “Young Americans”, “Space Oddity” & “Ziggy Stardust” which will all live on through future generations.
Essential Work: “Best of Bowie”, released in 2002 is his greatest hits compilation and includes all of his best work.
Alan Rickman (1/14/16) – A great character actor, who could do comedy as well as drama, he was a performer that would elevate the performance of those around him. To me, he will always be Hans Gruber, who was arguably, the greatest action movie villain from “Die Hard”. But to a generation, he is Severus Snape from the “Harry Potter” movie franchise. There is rumor that Tim Roth was originally cast in the role but he chose to be in Tim Burton’s “Planet of the Apes” re-make. He is a great actor but I can’t picture anyone else in that role. Snape is one of the most important characters in the entire book series and Rickman portrayed him in such a way that you couldn’t help but feel for the position he was put in.
Essential Work: “Die Hard”, “Harry Potter 1-7”, “Dogma”, “Love Actually”, “Galaxy Quest” & “Bottle Shock.”
Glen Frey (1/18/16) – A founding member of one of the greatest bands to come out of the 1970’s, The Eagles, Glen Frey was truly a great contributor to the sound of a decade. Some of the hits he sang lead vocals on include: “Take It Easy”, “Tequila Sunrise”, & “Heartache Tonight”. He also co-wrote the anthem “Hotel California”. Some of his solo hits include: “The Heat Is On” from Beverly Hills Cop & “Smuggler’s Blues” from Miami Vice. He also dabbled in acting in small character parts.
Essential Work: The Eagles’ albums: “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” & “Greatest Hits Vol. 2”. Solo work: “The Best of Glen Frey 20th Century Masters”.
Abe Vigoda (1/26/16) – A funny character actor whose work mostly came from the 1970’s & 1980’s, he was known to many as Detective Phil Fish on “Barney Miller” & it’s spinoff “Fish.” But his most famous role was a very small but iconic one in the classic “The Godfather” as Salvatore Tessio, who asks a favor of Marlon Brando’s Don Corelone on the day of his daughter’s wedding which gives a great snapshot of the latter’s character.
Essential Work: “Barney Miller”, “Fish”, “The Godfather”, Cannonball Run II” & “Look Who’s Talking.”
George Gaynes (2/15/16) – Another funny character actor with many great roles in his long career. His most famous being that of the inept, but loveable Commandant Eric Lassard in the “Police Academy” movie franchise. To kids in the 1980’s, he was the curmudgeon who took in and fostered the title character on the sitcom “Punky Brewster.”
Essential Work: “Police Academy 1-7”, “Punky Brewster” & “Tootsie”
George Kennedy (2/28/16) – Younger generations mostly know his as Police Captain Ed Hocken from “The Naked Gun” series, but his earlier dramatic work is definitely worth seeking out. His Academy Award-winning performance as Dragline opposite Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke” is a must see for the arc the character goes through from the beginning to the end.
Essential Work” “Cool Hand Luke”, the “Airport” series, “The Naked Gun” series
Nancy Reagan (3/6/16) – “Just Say No.” During her time as the First Lady when her husband Ronald Reagan served as the 40th POTUS, it was her anti-drug campaign that she will be most remembered. She aimed to bring a class and fashion back to the White House that hadn’t been seen since President Kennedy’s term in office.
Garry Shandling (3/24/16) – A writer, stand-up comedian and actor, he was once part of the guest host rotation and even considered to take over “The Tonight Show” from Johnny Carson when he retired. He had two iconic shows on television, the fourth wall-breaking sitcom “It’s Garry Shandling Show”, which had a theme song that you couldn’t get out of your head and the comedic look at the backstage world of a fictional talk show, “The Larry Sanders Show.” He started to show a darker side showing up as Senator Stern, an antagonist who was secretly a member of Hydra in two movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Essential Work: “It’s Garry Shandling Show”, “The Larry Sanders Show”, “Iron Man 2”, “Captain America: Winter Solider” & “Over The Hedge.”
Patty Duke (3/29/16) – The actress mostly known to a generation as the identical cousins Patty & Cathy Lane on “The Patty Duke Show”, was an Oscar winner for her role as Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker”. In her later years, she would become a spokesperson for mental health advocacy based on her own personal battles.
Essential Work: “The Patty Duke Show”, “The Miracle Worker” & “Valley Of The Dolls.”
Merle Haggard (4/6/16) – A legend of country music, who led a troubled life during his youth. While serving time in San Quentin Prison, he was in the crowd during Johnny Cash’s famous performance there which influenced him to become a musician. In turn, his songs about underdogs and outlaws with a fierce sense of national pride have influenced many of today’s artists.
Essential Work: “Okie From Muskogee”, “The Fightin’ Side of Me” & “Sing Me Back Home.”
Doris Roberts (4/17/16) – She played one of the most iconic TV moms in recent times as Marie Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond”, for which she won four Emmy Awards.
Essential Work: “Everybody Loves Raymond”, “Remmington Steele”, “Christmas Vacation” & “Grandma’s Boy.”
Prince (4/21/16) – What is there really to say that hasn’t already been said about one of the greatest singers, songwriters and pop icons of the last 40 years. He was an award-winning musical genius whose catalog will be influencing musicians and artists for years to come. Some of his greatest hits include, “1999”, “Little Red Corvette”, “Purple Rain”, “When Doves Cry” & “Raspberry Beret.”
Essential Work: 1993’s three disc set, “The Hits/The B-Sides” includes all of his hits, with only exceptions being his songs on the “Batman” soundtrack.
Muhammed Ali (6/3/16) – The Greatest, enough said. Beyond being one of the greatest boxers in history, he was also a civil rights activist and pop culture icon. The image of him lighting the Olympic torch during the 1996 Atlanta Games is one that stands out and will be remembered forever.
Essential Work: The Thrilla In Manila versus Joe Fraizer along with countless other matches.
Gordie Howe (6/10/16) – “Mr. Hockey.” A combination of pure talent and toughness made him one of the greatest hockey players that was a hero to many of the stars of the NHL that came after him. When Wayne Gretsky was asked why he wore the number 99, he stated that it was to honor his hero Gordie Howe who wore the number 9. In hockey when a player gets a goal, an assist and has a fight, it’s known as “The Gordie Howe Hat Trick.”
Anton Yelchin (6/19/16) – A young talented actor lost to a freak accident. Although his career was short, he showed great range from drama to comedy. He was a standout in the reboot of the Star Trek movie franchise for his portrayal of Chekov, sort of the wide-eyed innocent little brother of the crew.
Essential Work: “Alpha Dog”, “Charlie Bartlett”, “Green Room” & the most recent “Star Trek” films.
Garry Marshall (7/19/16) – I would bet that almost anyone who has ever watched TV has seen a show that Garry Marshall was involved in, whether it be as a director or producer. The man was behind legendary shows “Happy Days”, “Laverne & Shirley”, “Mork & Mindy” & “The Odd Couple”, to name a few. “Pretty Woman”, “Runaway Bride” & “The Princess Diaries were just a few of the hit movies he directed as well. The man was a comedy legend who could tell a great story. As an actor, he had a few small but memorable roles in movies such as “Soapdish”, “A League Of Their Own” & “Chicken Little.”
Essential Work: See Above
Gene Wilder (8/28/16) – Another comedy legend with iconic roles on his resume. Some of them include: Leo Bloom in “The Producers’, The Waco Kid in “Blazing Saddles”, Dr. Victor Frankenstein in “Young Frankenstein”, & Willy Wonka in “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory”.
Essential Work: See above plus “Silver Streak”, “Stir Crazy” & “Will & Grace.”
Curtis Hanson (9/20/16) – He was an Oscar winning screenwriter for co-writing the film, “L.A. Confidential” but he was better known for the films he directed in the 1990’s & 2000’s.
Essential Work: “L.A. Confidential”, “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” & “8 Mile”
Arnold Palmer (9/25/16) – One of the greatest golfers that ever played the game. He helped change the perception of golf from being a game for only those well to do to a sport for the masses. His post playing career including him designing golf course across the world as well as being one of the founders of The Golf Channel.
Florence Henderson (11/24/16) – She was the TV mom for a generation. Her role as the family matriarch Carol Brady on “The Brady Bunch” was iconic. She was also a staple on the game shows of the 1970’s & 1980’s. She later transitioned into cooking shows and would often appear in funny commercials and music videos often spoofing her wholesome image. And she also hosted July 12, 2010 episode of Monday Night Raw.
John Glenn (12/8/16) – The first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. He later went on to be a long-serving Senator from the state of Ohio.
Alan Thicke (12/13/16) – He was most famous for playing TV dad Dr. Jason Seaver on “Growing Pains.” Before that, he hosted talk and game shows as well as composing some of the most well-known television theme songs. Among them are the themes for the shows “Diff’rent Strokes” and “The Facts of Life”.
George Michael (12/25/16) – An iconic pop singer and songwriter from the 1980’s, he first came on the scene as one-half of the British pop duo Wham! with such hits as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “Freedom” & “Everything She Wants.” His solo hits include: “Careless Whisper”, “Faith” & “I Want Your Sex”. Additionally, he left us with the hit duet with Aretha Franklin “I Knew You Were Waiting” as well as the modern Christmas classic “Last Christmas.”
Essential Work: 1998’s “Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best Of George Michael” & 2006’s “Twenty-Five”.
Carrie Fisher (12/27/16) – We all know her as Princess Leia from the “Star Wars” films. In addition to acting, the daughter of the famous Hollywood couple Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, she went on to become a prolific author and script doctor.
Essential Work: “Star Wars Episodes IV, V, VI, VII & VII”, “Soapdish”, “Shampoo”, “When Harry Met Sally”, “Postcards From The Edge” & “Wishful Drinking.”
Debbie Reynolds (12/28/16) – A throwback to the old days of Hollywood, Debbie Reynolds was a star of both stage and screen whose career spanned decades. With roles in comedies, dramas and musicals, she became an entertainment legend.
Essential Work: “Singin’ In The Rain”, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” & “Charlotte’s Web”
Pat Harrington Jr (1/6/16) – He was best known for playing building superintendent Dwayne Schneider on the 1970’s-1980’s sitcom “One Day At A Time.”
Renê Angêlil (1/14/16) – Husband and manager of singer Celine Dion who was credited with discovering her at the age of 12.
Dan Haggerty (1/15/16)– The actor played the title character on the 1970’s TV show “The Life And Times of Grizzly Adams.”
Joe Alaskey (2/3/16) – The standup comedian and actor who voiced many cartoon characters, most notably many of the Looney Tunes characters after the death of Mel Blanc.
Maurice White (2/3/16) – Founding member of the group Earth, Wind & Fire.
Dave Mirra (2/4/16) – BMX racing and X-Games legend who went on to host reality programs on MTV.
Vanity (2/15/16) – Protégé of Prince who had roles in the movies “The Last Dragon” & “Action Jackson.”
Harper Lee (2/19/16) – The Pulitzer Prize winning author of “To Kill A Mockingbird”, a novel that has become standard and required reading to generations of adolescents.
George Martin (3/8/16) – Record producer often referred to as “The Fifth Beatle.”
Joe Garagiola (3/23/16) – Former pro baseball player turned broadcaster.
Chyna (4/20/16) – Former professional wrestler referred to as “The Ninth Wonder of the World.” She was the first woman to enter The Royal Rumble, King of the Ring tournament and hold the Intercontinental Championship.
Morley Safer (5/19/16) – Veteran newsman who was a famed correspondent on the news show “60 Minutes.”
Alan Young (5/19/16) – The actor and comedian played Wilbur Post, owner of the title character on the 1960’s TV show “Mr. Ed.”
Buddy Ryan (6/28/16) – Former NFL coach, best known as a defensive specialist who coached arguably the greatest defense in history, the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Pat Summitt (6/28/16) – The winningest coach in the history of Division I basketball led the Lady Vols of Tennessee for 38 years.
Elie Wiesel (7/2/16) – Writer and activist who was a Holocaust survivor who won the Nobel Prize in 1986.
Michael Cimino (7/2/16) – Oscar-winning director of the movie “The Deer Hunter.”
David Huddleston (8/2/16) – Character actor with notable roles in “The Big Lebowski” & “Blazing Saddles.”
Kenny Baker (8/13/16) – Played the droid R2-D2 in the “Star Wars: films. He also appeared in the cult classics “Willow” & “Time Bandits.”
Fyvush Finkel (8/14/16) – Starred in “Fiddler On The Roof” on Broadway, later went on to memorable roles the TV shows “Picket Fences” and “Boston Public”, the former of which he won an Emmy for his portrayal of lawyer Douglas Wambach.
John McLaughlin (8/16/16) – Political commentator and host of the political talk show, “The McLaughlin Group.”
Lou Pearlman (8/19/16) – Former music mogul who put together the 90’s boy bands The Backstreet Boys & ‘NSync.
Jon Polito (9/1/16) – Character actor with hundreds of credits with some of his more notable roles being in the movies “Barton Fink” & “The Big Lebowski.”
Alexis Arquette (9/11/16) – Member of a Hollywood family who chronicled her transgender transformation. Also played “George” in the movie “The Wedding Singer.”
Bill Nunn (9/24/16) – Character actor with notable roles in the films “School Daze”, “Do The Right Thing”, “New Jack City” & “Regarding Henry.”
Jose Fernandez (9/25/16) – All-Star pitcher for the Miami Marlins who won the National League Rookie of the Year in 2013.
Tommy Ford (10/12/16) – Actor who played Tommy Ford on the TV series “Martin.” He also played Tommy Smalls in the movie “Harlem Nights.”
Janet Reno (11/7/16) – The first woman to serve as U.S. Attorney General. Under the Clinton Administration she best be remembered for the Elian Gonzalez case.
Robert Vaughn (11/11/16) – Actor with numerous film roles who was best known for the playing Napoleon Solo on the 1960’s TV show “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”
Fidel Castro (11/25/16) – Former leader and dictator of the island nation Cuba.
Ron Glass (11/25/16) – TV actor with notable roles on the series “Barney Miller” & “Firefly.”
Grant Tinker (11/28/16) – Former chairman of NBC and ex-husband of Mary Tyler Moore who brought us many classic TV series including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” & “Hill Street Blues.”
Craig Sager (12/15/16) – Sports broadcaster best known for the flamboyant suits he donned while sideline reporting NBA & MLB games for TNT & TBS.
Zsa Zsa Gabor (12/18/16) – Actress and socialite who was best known for her nine marriages and she once served three days in jail for slapping a police officer.
William Christopher (12/31/16) – He played Father Mulcahy on the 1970’s TV show “M.A.S.H.”