Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who helped American musical theater evolve beyond pure entertainment and reach new artistic heights with such works as "West Side Story," "Into the Woods" and "Sweeney Todd," died early Friday at the age of 91, his publicist said. Gloria Tso reports.
NEW YORK (AP) — In 2010, the year he turned 80, Stephen Sondheim had to endure a public fuss when a Broadway theater was being renamed in his honor.
At a ceremony outside the 1,055-seat auditorium on West 43rd Street, the composer looked sheepish by the time he got to the podium following gushing words from admirers that included Patti LuPone and Nathan Lane. He also offered up a window into his psyche.
"I'm thrilled, but deeply embarrassed," he said, tearing up as a mid-September sun fell over the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. "I've always hated my last name. It just doesn't sing."
Keep scrolling for a look back at stars we've lost in 2021
The comment revealed how Sondheim's brilliant musicality and his perfectionism went hand-in-hand. The theatrical giant, who died Friday at 91, was as complex as his lyrics, dogmatic in his rules and not generous with praise about his work.
A driven, obsessive purist, he was also a magician, creating lyrics and music to such towering shows as "A Little Night Music," "Into the Woods," "Company," "Follies" and "Sunday in the Park with George."
But he was also his worst critic. Take, for example, his feeling about the iconic song "America" from "West Side Story," for which he supplied the lyrics to Leonard Bernstein's music.
President Barack Obama, right, presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to composer Stephen Sondheim during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, on, Nov. 24, 2015, in Washington.
"Some lines of this lyric are respectably sharp and crisp, but some melt in the mouth as gracelessly as peanut butter and are impossible to comprehend, such as 'For a small fee in America,' which smashes the l's and the f's together, making it sound like 'For a smafee,'" he wrote in his autobiographical self-critique, which took two volumes.
To the rest of us, Sondheim was genius, whether with the simple lament, "The sun comes up/I think about you/The coffee cup/I think about you," or the slightly paranoid, "Be careful the things you say/Children will listen," or the sublime "Marry me a little/Do it with a will/Make a few demands/I'm able to fulfill."
Six of Sondheim's musicals won Tony Awards for best score, and he also received a Pulitzer Prize ("Sunday in the Park"), an Academy Award (for the song "Sooner or Later" from the film "Dick Tracy"), five Olivier Awards and the Presidential Medal of Honor. In 2008, he received a Tony Award for lifetime achievement.
He had been working on a new musical with "Venus in Fur" playwright David Ives, who called his collaborator a genius. "Not only are his musicals brilliant, but I can't think of another theater person who has so chronicled a whole age so eloquently," Ives said in 2013. "He is the spirit of the age in a certain way."
Early in his career, Sondheim wrote the lyrics for two shows considered to be classics of the American stage, "West Side Story" (1957) and "Gypsy" (1959). "West Side Story" transplanted Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" to the streets and gangs of modern-day New York. "Gypsy," with music by Jule Styne, told the backstage story of the ultimate stage mother and the daughter who grew up to be Gypsy Rose Lee.
It was not until 1962 that Sondheim wrote both music and lyrics for a Broadway show, and it turned out to be a smash — the bawdy "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," starring Zero Mostel as a wily slave in ancient Rome yearning to be free.
Yet his next show, "Anyone Can Whistle" (1964), flopped, running only nine performances but achieving cult status after its cast recording was released. Sondheim's 1965 lyric collaboration with composer Richard Rodgers — "Do I Hear a Waltz?" — also turned out to be problematic. The musical, based on the play "The Time of the Cuckoo," ran for six months but was an unhappy experience for both men, who did not get along.
It was "Company," which opened on Broadway in April 1970, that cemented Sondheim's reputation. The episodic adventures of a bachelor (played by Dean Jones) with an inability to commit to a relationship was hailed as capturing the obsessive nature of striving, self-centered New Yorkers. The show, produced and directed by Hal Prince, won Sondheim his first Tony for best score. "The Ladies Who Lunch" became a standard for Elaine Stritch.
FILE - Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim poses after being awarded the Freedom of the City of London at a ceremony at the Guildhall in London, on Sept. 27, 2018.
The following year, Sondheim wrote the score for "Follies," a look at the shattered hopes and disappointed dreams of women who had appeared in lavish Ziegfeld-style revues. The music and lyrics paid homage to great composers of the past such as Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and the Gershwins.
In 1973, "A Little Night Music," starring Glynis Johns and Len Cariou, opened. Based on Bergman's "Smiles of a Summer Night," this rueful romance of middle-age lovers contains the song "Send in the Clowns," which gained popularity outside the show. A revival in 2009 starred Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones was nominated for a best revival Tony.
"Pacific Overtures," with a book by John Weidman, followed in 1976. The musical, also produced and directed by Prince, was not a financial success, but it demonstrated Sondheim's commitment to offbeat material, filtering its tale of the westernization of Japan through a hybrid American-Kabuki style.
In 1979, Sondheim and Prince collaborated on what many believe to be Sondheim's masterpiece, the bloody yet often darkly funny "Sweeney Todd." An ambitious work, it starred Cariou in the title role as a murderous barber whose customers end up in meat pies baked by Todd's willing accomplice, played by Angela Lansbury.
The Sondheim-Prince partnership collapsed two years later, after "Merrily We Roll Along," a musical that traced a friendship backward from its characters' compromised middle age to their idealistic youth. The show, based on a play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, only ran two weeks on Broadway. But again, as with "Anyone Can Whistle," its original cast recording helped "Merrily We Roll Along" to become a favorite among musical-theater buffs.
"Sunday in the Park," written with James Lapine, may be Sondheim's most personal show. A tale of uncompromising artistic creation, it told the story of artist Georges Seurat, played by Mandy Patinkin. The painter submerges everything in his life, including his relationship with his model (Bernadette Peters), for his art. It was most recently revived on Broadway in 2017 with Jake Gyllenhaal.)
Three years after "Sunday" debuted, Sondheim collaborated again with Lapine, this time on the fairy-tale musical "Into the Woods." The show starred Peters as a glamorous witch and dealt primarily with the turbulent relationships between parents and children, using such famous fairy-tale characters as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. It was most recently revived in the summer of 2012 in Central Park by The Public Theater.
"Assassins" opened off-Broadway in 1991 and it looked at the men and women who wanted to kill presidents, from John Wilkes Booth to John Hinckley. The show received mostly negative reviews in its original incarnation, but many of those critics reversed themselves 13 years later when the show was done on Broadway and won a Tony for best musical revival.
"Passion" was another severe look at obsession, this time a desperate woman, played by Donna Murphy, in love with a handsome soldier. Despite winning the best-musical Tony in 1994, the show barely managed a six-month run.
A new version of "The Frogs," with additional songs by Sondheim and a revised book by Nathan Lane (who also starred in the production), played Lincoln Center during the summer of 2004. The show, based on the Aristophanes comedy, originally had been done 20 years earlier in the Yale University swimming pool.
One of his more troubled shows was "Road Show," which reunited Sondheim and Weidman and spent years being worked on. This tale of the Mizner brothers, whose get-rich schemes in the early part of the 20th century finally made it to the Public Theater in 2008 after going through several different titles, directors and casts.
Sondheim wrote infrequently for the movies. He collaborated with actor Anthony Perkins on the script for the 1973 murder mystery "The Last of Sheila," and besides his work on "Dick Tracy" (1990), wrote scores for such movies as Alain Resnais' "Stavisky" (1974) and Warren Beatty's "Reds" (1981).
Over the years, there have been many Broadway revivals of Sondheim shows, especially "Gypsy," which had reincarnations starring Angela Lansbury (1974), Tyne Daly (1989) and Peters (2003). But there also were productions of "A Funny Thing," one with Phil Silvers in 1972 and another starring Nathan Lane in 1996; "Into the Woods" with Vanessa Williams in 2002; and even of Sondheim's less successful shows such as "Assassins" and "Pacific Overtures," both in 2004. "Sweeney Todd" has been produced in opera houses around the world. A reimagined "West Side Story" opened on Broadway in 2020 and this year an off-Broadway "Assassins" opened off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company and a scrambled "Company" opened on Broadway with the gender of the protagonist switched. A film version of "West Side Story" is to open this December directed by Steven Spielberg.
Sondheim's songs have been used extensively in revues, the best-known being "Side by Side by Sondheim" (1976) on Broadway and "Putting It Together," off-Broadway with Julie Andrews in 1992 and on Broadway with Carol Burnett in 1999. The New York Philharmonic put on a star-studded "Company" in 2011 with Neil Patrick Harris and Stephen Colbert. Tunes from his musicals have lately popped up everywhere from "Marriage Story" to "The Morning Show." He himself was most recently portrayed on film by Bradley Whitford in "Tick, Tick... BOOM!" directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. "It's scary to have that obligation but Lin was there to pull the blood out of me," Whitford told The Hollywood Reporter.
In memoriam: Those we lost in 2021
Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record and gracefully left his mark as one of baseball’s greatest all-around players, died Jan. 22, 2021. He was 86. “Hammerin’ Hank” set a wide array of career hitting records during a 23-year career spent mostly with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, including RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases. But the Hall of Famer will be remembered for one swing above all others, the one that made him baseball’s home-run king.
Colin Powell, who served Democratic and Republican presidents in war and peace but whose sterling reputation was stained when he went before the U.N. and made faulty claims to justify the U.S. war in Iraq, has died of COVID-19 complications. He was 84. In 1989 Powell became the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role he oversaw the U.S. invasion of Panama and later the U.S. invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991. He served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush.
Ed Asner, the burly and prolific character actor who became a star in middle age as the gruff but lovable newsman Lou Grant, first in the hit comedy “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and later in the drama “Lou Grant,” died Aug. 29, 2021. He was 91. Built like the football lineman he once was, the balding Asner was a journeyman actor in films and TV when he was hired in 1970 to play Lou Grant on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” For seven seasons he was the rumpled boss to Moore’s ebullient Mary Richards (He called her “Mary,” she called him “Mr. Grant”) at the fictional Minneapolis TV newsroom where both worked. Later, he would play the role for five years on “Lou Grant.”
Cloris Leachman, a character actor whose depth of talent brought her an Oscar for the “The Last Picture Show” and Emmys for her comedic work in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and other TV series, has died. She was 94. Millions of viewers knew the actor as the self-absorbed neighbor Phyllis in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” She also appeared as the mother of Timmy on the “Lassie” series. She played a frontier prostitute in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” a crime spree family member in “Crazy Mama,” and the infamous Frau Bucher in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein.”
Christopher Plummer, the dashing award-winning actor who played Captain von Trapp in the film “The Sound of Music” and at 82 became the oldest Academy Award acting winner in history, died Feb. 5, 2021. He was 91. Over more than 50 years in the industry, Plummer enjoyed varied roles ranging from the film “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” to the voice of the villain in 2009′s “Up” and as a canny lawyer in Broadway’s “Inherit the Wind.” But it was opposite Julie Andrews as von Trapp that made him a star.
Larry King, the suspenders-sporting everyman whose broadcast interviews with world leaders, movie stars and ordinary Joes helped define American conversation for a half-century, died Jan. 23, 2021. He was 87. A longtime nationally syndicated radio host, from 1985 through 2010 he was a nightly fixture on CNN, where he won many honors, including two Peabody awards. With his celebrity interviews, political debates and topical discussions, King wasn’t just an enduring on-air personality. He also set himself apart with the curiosity he brought to every interview, whether questioning the assault victim known as the Central Park jogger or billionaire industrialist Ross Perot, who in 1992 rocked the presidential contest by announcing his candidacy on King’s show.
Olympia Dukakis, the veteran stage and screen actor whose flair for maternal roles helped her win an Oscar as Cher’s mother in the romantic comedy “Moonstruck,” died May 1, 2021. She was 89. Her Oscar victory kept the motherly film roles coming. She was Kirstie Alley’s mom in “Look Who’s Talking” and its sequel “Look Who’s Talking Too,” the sardonic widow in “Steel Magnolias” and the overbearing wife of Jack Lemmon (and mother of Ted Danson) in “Dad.”
Michael K. Williams
Michael K. Williams, who as the rogue robber of drug dealers Omar Little on “The Wire” created one of the most beloved and enduring characters in a prime era of television, died Sept. 6, 2021. He was 54. Little, a “stick-up boy” based on real figures from Baltimore, was probably the most popular character among the devoted fans of “The Wire,” the HBO show that ran from 2002 to 2008 and is re-watched constantly in streaming.
Prince Philip, the irascible and tough-minded husband of Queen Elizabeth II who spent more than seven decades supporting his wife in a role that both defined and constricted his life, died April 9, 2021, at age 99. His life spanned nearly a century of European history, starting with his birth into the Greek royal family and ending as Britain’s longest serving consort during a turbulent reign in which the thousand-year-old monarchy was forced to reinvent itself for the 21st century.
DMX, the raspy-voiced hip-hop artist who produced the songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here)" and who rapped with a trademark delivery that was often paired with growls, barks and “What!” as an ad-lib, died April 9, 2021. He was 50. The rapper, whose real name is Earl Simmons, had struggled with drug addiction since his teenage years. DMX made a splash in rap music in 1998 with his first studio album, “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. He released seven albums, earned three Grammy nominations and was named favorite rap/hip-hop artist at the 2000 American Music Awards.
Tommy Lasorda, the fiery Hall of Fame manager who guided the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series titles and later became an ambassador for the sport he loved during his 71 years with the franchise, died Jan. 7, 2021. He was 93. Lasorda worked as a player, scout, manager and front office executive with the Dodgers dating to their roots in Brooklyn. He compiled a 1,599-1,439 record, won World Series titles in 1981 and ’88, four National League pennants and eight division titles while serving as Dodgers manager from 1977-96. He was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1997 as a manager. He guided the U.S. to a baseball gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Norm Macdonald, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer who was “Weekend Update” host when Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson provided comic fodder during the 1990s, has died after a nine-year bout with cancer. Macdonald never reached the same television heights after being fired from “SNL” in 1998, but was an indefatigable stand-up comic and popular talk show guest whose death provoked an outpouring from fellow comedians.
Ned Beatty, the Oscar-nominated character actor who in half a century of American movies, including “Deliverance,” “Network” and “Superman,” was a booming, indelible presence in even the smallest parts, died June 13, 2021. He was 83. After years in regional theater, Beatty was cast in 1972's “Deliverance” as Bobby Trippe, the happy-go-lucky member of a male river-boating party terrorized by backwoods thugs in “Deliverance.” The scene in which Trippe is brutalized and forced to “squeal like a pig” became the most memorable in the movie and established Beatty as an actor whose name moviegoers may not have known but whose face they always recognized.
Cicely Tyson, the pioneering Black actor who gained an Oscar nomination for her role as the sharecropper’s wife in “Sounder,” won a Tony Award in 2013 at age 88 and touched TV viewers’ hearts in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” died Jan. 28, 2021, at 96. Besides her Oscar nomination, she won two Emmys for playing the 110-year-old former slave in the 1974 television drama “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” A new generation of moviegoers saw her in the 2011 hit “The Help.”
Rush Limbaugh, the conservative media icon who for decades used his perch as the king of talk-radio to shape the politics of both the Republican Party and nation, died Feb. 17, 2021, after a battle with cancer. He was 70. A pioneer of AM talk-radio, Limbaugh for 32 years hosted "The Rush Limbaugh Show," a nationally syndicated program with millions of loyal listeners that transfigured him into a partisan force and polarizing figure in American politics. In many ways, his radio show was like the big bang of the conservative media universe. "The Rush Limbaugh Show" helped popularize the political talk-radio format and usher in a generation of conservative infotainment. - CNN
Hal Holbrook, the award-winning character actor who toured the world for more than 50 years as Mark Twain in a one-man show and uttered the immortal advice “Follow the money” in the classic political thriller “All the President’s Men,” died Jan. 23, 2021. He was 95.
Elgin Baylor, the Lakers’ 11-time NBA All-Star who soared through the 1960s with a high-scoring style of basketball that became the model for the modern player, died March 22, 2021. He was 86. With a silky-smooth jumper and fluid athleticism, Baylor played a major role in revolutionizing basketball from a ground-bound sport into an aerial show. He spent parts of 14 seasons with the Lakers in Minneapolis and Los Angeles during his Hall of Fame career, teaming with Jerry West throughout the ’60s in one of the most potent tandems in basketball history.
Leon Spinks, who won Olympic gold and then shocked the boxing world by beating Muhammad Ali to win the heavyweight title in only his eighth pro fight, died Feb. 5, 2021. He was 67. A lovable heavyweight with a drinking problem, Spinks beat Ali by decision in a 15-round fight in 1978 to win the title. He was unranked at the time, and picked as an opponent because Ali was looking for an easy fight.
Charlie Watts, the self-effacing and unshakeable Rolling Stones drummer who helped anchor one of rock’s greatest rhythm sections and used his “day job” to support his enduring love of jazz, died Aug. 24, 2021. He was 80. The quiet, elegantly dressed Watts was often ranked with Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and a handful of others as a premier rock drummer, respected worldwide for his muscular, swinging style as the Stones rose from their scruffy beginnings to international superstardom. He joined the band early in 1963 and remained for nearly 60 years, ranked just behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the group’s longest lasting and most essential member.
Willie Garson, who played Stanford Blatch, Carrie Bradshaw's friend on TV's “Sex and the City" and its movie sequels, has died. He was 57. Garson portrayed Blatch, a talent agent and the devoted and stylish best male friend to Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie for six seasons. He reprised the role in the films “Sex and the City” and “Sex and the City 2,” and had been filming an upcoming series revival for HBO Max called “And Just Like That.”
Beverly Cleary, the celebrated children’s author whose memories of her Oregon childhood were shared with millions through the likes of Ramona and Beezus Quimby and Henry Huggins, died March 25, 2021. She was 104. Cleary published her first book, "Henry Huggins," in 1950, and more than 40 other books in years following, according to HarperCollins. Cleary's books have sold more than 85 million copies and were translated into 29 different languages. Her protagonists were pests, goody-goodies, bullies and daydreamers, sometimes all at once. She mined memories of her youth and the struggles of kids she knew to capture children's views of the adult world, where fathers sometimes lost their jobs and mothers sometimes parented alone. - CNN, AP
Former Vice President
Walter F. Mondale, a liberal icon who lost one of the most lopsided presidential elections after bluntly telling voters to expect a tax increase if he won, died April 19, 2021. He was 93. Mondale followed the trail blazed by his political mentor, Hubert H. Humphrey, from Minnesota politics to the U.S. Senate and the vice presidency, serving under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. Mondale's own try for the White House, in 1984, came at the zenith of Ronald Reagan’s popularity. His selection of Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate made him the first major-party presidential nominee to put a woman on the ticket. On Election Day, he carried only his home state and the District of Columbia.
James Michael Tyler
James Michael Tyler, the actor known widely for his recurring role as Gunther on “Friends,” died Oct. 24, 2021. He was 59. Tyler had appeared briefly in 1990s series like “Just Shoot Me!” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch" before being cast as a background character in the second episodes of “Friends” in 1994. Over the show's multi-year-run, he became the most frequently recurring guest star on the series playing Gunther, the Central Perk barista with an unrequited affection for Rachel (Jennifer Aniston).
Dustin Diamond, who played the role of Screech on the popular 1990s high school comedy "Saved by the Bell," died Feb. 1, 2021, after a recent cancer diagnosis. He was 44.
Dusty Hill, the long-bearded bassist for the million-selling Texas blues rock trio known for such hits as “Legs” and “Gimme All Your Lovin'," died July 27, 2021, at age 72.
Markie Post, who played the public defender in the 1980s sitcom “Night Court” and was a regular presence on television for four decades, died Aug. 7, 2021. She was 70. Post was a longtime television regular who appeared in shows from “Cheers” to “Scrubs." But she was best known for her seven-season run on NBC's “Night Court," the Manhattan municipal court sitcom that ran from 1984 to 1992 and starred Harry Anderson as Judge Harry T. Stone.
George Segal, the banjo player turned actor who was nominated for an Oscar for 1966's “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and worked into his late 80s on the ABC sitcom “The Goldbergs,” died March 23, 2021, at age 87. Segal was always best known as a comic actor, becoming one of the screen's biggest stars in the 1970s when lighthearted adult comedies thrived. But his most famous role was in a harrowing drama, “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", based on Edward Albee's acclaimed play. To younger audiences, he was better known for playing magazine publisher Jack Gallo on the long-running NBC series “Just Shoot Me" from 1997 to 2003, and as grandfather Albert “Pops” Solomon on the “The Goldbergs” since 2013.
Siegfried Fischbacher, the surviving member of the magic duo Siegfried & Roy who entertained millions with illusions using rare animals, died Jan. 13, 2021, in Las Vegas. He was 81. The duo astonished millions with their extraordinary magic tricks until Horn was critically injured in 2003 by one of the act’s famed white tigers. For years, Siegfried & Roy was an institution in Las Vegas, where Fischbacher and Horn's magic and artistry consistently attracted sellout crowds. The pair performed six shows a week, 44 weeks per year.
Tanya Roberts, who captivated James Bond in “A View to a Kill” and appeared in the sitcom “That ’70s Show,” died Jan. 4, 2021. She was 65. Roberts played geologist Stacey Sutton opposite Roger Moore in 1985′s “A View to a Kill." She also appeared in such fantasy adventure films as “The Beastmaster” and “Hearts and Armour.” She replaced Shelley Hack in “Charlie’s Angels,” and also played comic book heroine Sheena — a female version of the Tarzan story — in a 1984 film. A new generation of fans saw her on “That ’70s Show” from 1998 and 2004, playing Midge, mother to Laura Prepon’s character Donna.
Larry Flynt, who turned his raunchy Hustler magazine into an empire while fighting numerous First Amendment court battles and flaying politicians with stunts such as a Donald Trump assassination Christmas card, died Feb. 10, 2021. He was 78. Flynt was shot in a 1978 assassination attempt and left paralyzed from the waist down but refused to slow down, building a flamboyant reputation along with a fortune estimated at $100 million.
Peter Scolari, a versatile character actor whose television roles included a yuppie producer on “Newhart” and a closeted dad on “Girls” and who was on Broadway with longtime friend Tom Hanks in “Lucky Guy," died Oct. 22, 2021. He was 66. He first gained attention as the then-unknown Hanks’ co-star in the 1980-82 sitcom “Bosom Buddies,” in which their characters disguised themselves as women to live in affordable, females-only housing.
Gary Paulsen, the acclaimed and prolific children's author who often drew upon his rural affinities and wide-ranging adventures for tales that included “Hatchet,” “Brian's Winter” and “Dogsong,” died Oct. 13, 2021, at age 82. Author of more than 100 books, with sales topping 35 million, Paulsen was a three-time finalist for the John Newbery Medal for the year's best children's book and recipient in 1997 of the American Library Association's Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement.
Mary Wilson, the longest-reigning original Supreme, died Feb. 8, 2021. She was 76. Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard made up the first successful configuration of The Supremes. Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong in 1967, and Wilson stayed with the group until it was officially disbanded by Motown in 1977.
Betty Lynn, the film and television actor who was best known for her role as Barney Fife's sweetheart Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show,” died Oct. 16, 2021. She was 95. Lynn appeared as Thelma Lou on the show from 1961 until 1966. She reprised her role in the made-for-TV movie “Return to Mayberry,” in which Thelma Lou and Barney got married.
Willard Scott, the beloved weatherman who charmed viewers of NBC's “Today” show with his self-deprecating humor and cheerful personality, died Sept. 4, 2021. He was 87. Scott's trademark was giving on-air birthday greetings to viewers who turned 100 years old by putting their faces on Smucker's jelly jars and delivering weather updates in zany costumes.
Jessica Walter, whose roles as a scheming matriarch in TV’s “Arrested Development” and a stalker in “Play Misty for Me” were in line with a career that drew on her astringent screen presence more than her good looks, died March 24, 2021. She was 80.
Sarah Dash (pictured at right), who co-founded the all-female group Labelle — best known for the raucous 1974 hit “Lady Marmalade" — has died. She was 76. Dash originally started in the group The Ordettes, before it morphed into The Bluebells and then into Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. In the early 1970s, they shortened it to Labelle, changed their outfits and veered toward funk, with all three members singing lead and background.
Bobby Bowden, the folksy Hall of Fame coach who built Florida State into an unprecedented college football dynasty, died Aug. 8, 2021. He was 91. With Southern charm and wit, Bowden piled up 377 wins during his 40 years as a major college coach, from tiny Samford — his alma mater, then known as Howard College — to West Virginia and finally at Florida State, where he went 315-98-4. The Seminoles were a force during his 34 seasons as coach, winning 12 Atlantic Coast Conference championships and national titles in 1993 and 1999.
Jane Withers, the former child actor who bedeviled Shirley Temple on the screen and went on to star in a series of B movies that made her a box-office champion, died Aug. 7, 2021. She was 95. After a series of minor roles as a child actress, Withers was cast by Twentieth Century-Fox in the 1934 “Bright Eyes,” as the nemesis of lovable Temple, then Hollywood’s most popular star.
Nanci Griffith, the Grammy-winning folk singer-songwriter from Texas whose literary songs like “Love at the Five and Dime” celebrated the South, died Aug. 13, 2021. She was 68. Griffith worked closely with other folk singers, helping the early careers of artists like Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris. She had a high-pitched voice, and her singing was effortlessly smooth with a twangy Texas accent as she sang about Dust Bowl farmers and empty Woolworth general stores.
Don Everly (pictured at right), one-half of the pioneering Everly Brothers whose harmonizing country rock hits impacted a generation of rock ‘n’ roll music, died Aug. 21, 2021. He was 84. In the late 1950s and 1960s, the duo of Don and Phil drew upon their rural roots with their strummed guitars and high, yearning harmonies, while their poignant songs. Their 19 top 40 hits included “Bye Bye Love,” “Let It Be Me,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Wake Up Little Susie,” and performers from the Beatles to Simon & Garfunkel cited them as key influences.
Richard Trumka, the powerful president of the AFL-CIO who rose from the coal mines of Pennsylvania to preside over one of the largest labor organizations in the world, died Aug. 5, 2021. He was 72. Trumka had been AFL-CIO president since 2009, after serving as the organization’s secretary-treasurer for 14 years. From his perch, he oversaw a federation with more than 12.5 million members and ushered in a more aggressive style of leadership.
Biz Markie, a hip-hop staple known for his beatboxing prowess, turntable mastery and the 1989 classic “Just a Friend,” died July 23, 2021. He was 57. Markie, who birth name was Marcel Theo Hall, became known within the rap genre realm as the self-proclaimed “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop” for his lighthearted lyrics and humorous nature. He made music with the Beastie Boys, opened for Chris Rock’s comedy tour and was a sought-after DJ for countless star-studded events.
Joanne Rogers, an an accomplished concert pianist who celebrated and protected the legacy of her husband, the beloved children's TV host Mister Rogers, died Jan. 14, 2021. She was 92. Joanne and Fred Rogers were married for more than 50 years, spanning the launch and end of the low-key, low-tech “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which presented Fred Rogers as one adult in a busy world who always had time to listen to children. His pull as America’s favorite neighbor never seemed to wane before his death in 2003.
Capt. Tom Moore, the World War II veteran who walked into the hearts of a nation in lockdown as he shuffled up and down his garden to raise money for health care workers, died Feb. 2, 2021, after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 100.
James Levine, who ruled over the Metropolitan Opera for more than four decades before being eased aside when his health declined and then was fired for sexual improprieties, died March 9, 2021. He was 77. Levine made his Met debut in 1971 and became one of the signature artists in the company’s century-plus history, conducting 2,552 performances and ruling over its repertoire, orchestra and singers as music or artistic director from 1976 until forced out by general manager Peter Gelb in 2016 due to Parkinson’s disease.
Phil Spector, the eccentric and revolutionary music producer who transformed rock music with his “Wall of Sound” method and who later was convicted of murder, died Jan. 16, 2021. He was 81. Spector was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 at his castle-like mansion on the edge of Los Angeles. After a trial in 2009, he was sentenced to 19 years to life. Decades before, Spector had been hailed as a visionary for channeling Wagnerian ambition into the three-minute song, creating the “Wall of Sound” that merged spirited vocal harmonies with lavish orchestral arrangements to produce such pop monuments as “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Be My Baby” and “He’s a Rebel.”
Helen McCrory, who starred in the television show “Peaky Blinders” and the “Harry Potter” movies, has died. She was 52 and had been suffering from cancer. McCrory was one of Britain’s most respected actors, making her mark by playing a succession of formidable and sometimes fearsome women. She played the matriarch of a crime family on ”Peaky Blinders” and the scheming Voldemort ally Narcissa Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” movies.
Ron Popeil, the quintessential TV pitchman and inventor known to generations of viewers for hawking products including the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone and the Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ, died July 28, 2021. He was 86. Popeil essentially invented the popular image of the American television pitchman, whose novel products solved frustrating problems viewers didn't know they had.
Carl Levin, a powerful voice on military issues in Washington and a staunch supporter of the auto industry back home in Michigan during his record tenure in the U.S. Senate, died July 29, 2021. He was 87. First elected to the Senate in 1978, Levin represented Michigan longer than any other senator, targeting tax shelters, supporting manufacturing jobs and pushing for military funding.
Robert Downey Sr.
Robert Downey Sr., the accomplished countercultural filmmaker, actor and father of superstar Robert Downey Jr., died July 6, 2021. He was 85. Downey was a Hollywood journeyman who made a name for himself with radical, anti-establishment films, like the low-budget Madison Avenue advertising industry satire “Putney Swope” and the Western Jesus parable “Greaser’s Palace” starring Allan Arbus.
"Marvelous" Marvin Hagler, the middleweight boxing great whose title reign and career ended with a split-decision loss to “Sugar” Ray Leonard in 1987, died March 13, 2021. He was 66. Hagler was 62-3-2 with 52 knockouts from 1973 to 1987. He was the undisputed middleweight champion from 1980 until his loss to Leonard at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on April 6, 1987. The fierce left-hander had two of his biggest victories at Caesars Palace, unanimously outpointing Roberto Duran in 1983 and knocking out Thomas Hearns in the third round in 1985.
George P. Shultz
Former Secretary of State
George P. Shultz, a titan of American academia, business and diplomacy who spent most of the 1980s trying to improve Cold War relations with the Soviet Union and forging a course for peace in the Middle East, died Feb. 6, 2021. He was 100. Shultz was labor secretary, treasury secretary and director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Richard M. Nixon before spending more than six years as President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state.
Yaphet Kotto, the commanding actor who brought tough magnetism and stately gravitas to films including the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die” and “Alien," died March 15, 2021. He was 81. Standing 6-foot-3-inches, Yaphet Frederick Kotto was a regular and compelling presence across films, television and Broadway beginning with the films “Nothing But a Man” (1964) and “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968). He made his stage debut in a Boston production of “Othello.” In 1969, he replaced James Earl Jones in the Pulitzer-winning “The Great White Hope” on Broadway. His big-screen breakthrough came as Lieutenant Pope in 1972's “Across 110th Street."
Jackie Mason, a rabbi-turned-comedian whose feisty brand of standup comedy led him to Catskills nightclubs, West Coast talk shows and Broadway stages, died July 24, 2021. He was 93. The irascible Mason was known for his sharp wit and piercing social commentary, often about being Jewish, men and women and his own inadequacies. His typical style was amused outrage.
Apollo 11 astronaut
Michael Collins, who piloted the ship from which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left to make their historic first steps on the moon in 1969, died April 28, 2021, of cancer. He was 90. Collins was part of the three-man Apollo 11 crew that effectively ended the space race between the United States and Russia and fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to reach the moon by the end of the 1960s.
Donald Rumsfeld, the two-time defense secretary and one-time presidential candidate whose reputation as a skilled bureaucrat and visionary of a modern U.S. military was soiled by the long and costly Iraq war, died June 29, 2021. He was 88. Regarded by former colleagues as equally smart and combative, patriotic and politically cunning, Rumsfeld had a storied career under four presidents and nearly a quarter century in corporate America.
F. Lee Bailey
F. Lee Bailey, the celebrity attorney who defended O.J. Simpson, Patricia Hearst and the alleged Boston Strangler, but whose legal career halted when he was disbarred in two states, died June 3, 2021. He was 87. In a career that lasted more than four decades, Bailey was seen as arrogant, egocentric and contemptuous of authority. But he was also acknowledged as bold, brilliant, meticulous and tireless in the defense of his clients.
Eric Carle, the beloved children’s author and illustrator whose classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and other works gave millions of kids some of their earliest and most cherished literary memories, died May 23, 2021, at age 91. Through books like “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” “Do You Want to Be My Friend?” and “From Head to Toe,” Carle introduced universal themes in simple words and bright colors.
Tawny Kitaen, who appeared in "Bachelor Party" and provocative 1980s rock videos, died May 7, 2021. She was 59. In 1984, she co-starred in an early Tom Hanks comedy, "Bachelor Party." She then appeared in music videos for heavy metal bands Ratt and Whitesnake, including in "Back for More" and "Is This Love." - CNN
Lloyd Price, an early rock ’n roll star and enduring maverick whose hits included such up-tempo favorites as “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality” and the semi-forbidden “Stagger Lee,” died May 3, 2021. He was 88. Price, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, was among the last survivors of a post-World War II scene in New Orleans that anticipated the shifts in popular music and culture leading to the rise of rock in the mid-1950s.
Charles Grodin, the droll, offbeat actor and writer who scored as a caddish newlywed in “The Heartbreak Kid” and later had roles ranging from Robert De Niro’s counterpart in the comic thriller “Midnight Run” to the bedeviled father in the “Beethoven” comedies, died May 18, 2021. He was 86. Known for his dead-pan style and everyday looks, Grodin also appeared in “Dave,” “The Woman in Red,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Heaven Can Wait.” On Broadway, he starred with Ellen Burstyn in the long-running 1970s comedy “Same Time, Next Year,” and he found many other outlets for his talents.
Jack Ingram, a hard-hosed, hot-tempered racer who won five NASCAR championships and more than 300 races, died June 25, 2021. He was 84. Nicknamed the “Iron Man” for his relentless pursuit on the race track, Ingram dominated NASCAR Sportsman competition during the 1970s. He won three consecutive championships from 1972 to 1974 and continued to compete when the series underwent a transformation and became what is now known as the Xfinity Series.
John Warner, a Republican U.S. senator who led Virginia's congressional delegation for 30 years and whose marriage to actress Elizabeth Taylor brought a dash of glamour to Virginia politics, died May 25, 2021. He was 94. Warner served in the Senate from 1979 to 2009, including three stints as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, a key post for a state whose economy is heavily dependent on federal spending.
Dean Stockwell, a top Hollywood child actor who gained new success in middle age in the sci-fi series “Quantum Leap” and in a string of indelible performances in film, including David Lynch's “Blue Velvet,” Wim Wenders' “Paris, Texas” and Jonathan Demme's “Married to the Mob,” died Nov. 7, 2021. He was 85.
F.W. de Klerk
F.W. de Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela and as South Africa’s last apartheid president oversaw the end of the country’s white minority rule, died Nov. 11, 2021, at age 85.
Gavin MacLeod, the veteran supporting actor who achieved fame as sardonic TV news writer Murray Slaughter on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and stardom playing cheerful Capt. Stubing on “The Love Boat,” died May 29, 2021. He was 90.
Samuel E. Wright
Samuel E. Wright, the actor who voiced Sebastian the crab in Disney's "The Little Mermaid" and sang the film's Oscar-winning song "Under the Sea," has died at age 74. Wright's role as a Jamaican crab and adviser to King Triton in the much-loved 1989 Disney film marked the high point of his lengthy career in cinema, television and theater. - CNN
Bernie Madoff, the financier who pleaded guilty to orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme, died in a federal prison April 14, 2021. He was 82. Madoff admitted swindling thousands of clients out of billions of dollars in investments over decades.
Shock G, who blended whimsical wordplay with reverence for '70s funk as leader of the off-kilter Bay Area hip-hop group Digital Underground, died April 22, 2021. He was 57. The group found fame with the Billboard Top 10 hit “Humpty Dance” in 1990, as Shock G, born Greg Jacobs, donned a Groucho Marx-style fake nose and glasses to become one of his many alter egos, Humpty Hump.
Anne Douglas, the widow of Kirk Douglas and stepmother of Michael Douglas, died April 29, 2021. She was 102. The Douglas Foundation, which Anne and her husband co-founded, has donated millions to a wide range of institutions, from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.
Vernon Jordan, who rose from humble beginnings in the segregated South to become a champion of civil rights before reinventing himself as a Washington insider and corporate influencer, died March 1, 2021. After stints as field secretary for the Georgia NAACP and executive director of the United Negro College Fund, he became head of the National Urban League, becoming the face of Black America’s modern struggle for jobs and justice for more than a decade. He was nearly killed by a racist’s bullet in 1980 before transitioning to business and politics. His friendship with Bill Clinton took them both to the White House.
G. Gordon Liddy
G. Gordon Liddy, a mastermind of the Watergate burglary and a radio talk show host after emerging from prison, died March 30, 2021, at age 90. Liddy, a former FBI agent and Army veteran, was convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping for his role in the Watergate burglary, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. He spent four years and four months in prison, including more than 100 days in solitary confinement.
John Chaney, one of the nation’s leading Black coaches and a commanding figure during a Hall of Fame basketball career at Temple, died Jan. 29, 2021. He was 89. Chaney led Temple to 17 NCAA Tournament appearances over 24 seasons, including five NCAA regional finals. Chaney had 741 wins as a college coach. He was twice named national coach of the year and his teams at Temple won six Atlantic 10 conference titles.
Sheldon Adelson, who rose from a modest start as the son of an immigrant taxi driver to become a billionaire Republican powerbroker with a casino empire and influence on international politics, died Jan. 11, 2021. He was 87. In business, Adelson transformed a landmark Las Vegas casino that was once a hangout of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack into a towering Italian-inspired complex. In politics, Adelson was a record-breaking campaign donor who had the ear of domestic and international leaders, including President Donald Trump.
Bunny Wailer, a reggae luminary who was the last surviving founding member of the legendary group The Wailers, died March 2, 2021, in his native Jamaica. He was 73. Wailer, a baritone singer whose birth name is Neville Livingston, formed The Wailers in 1963 with late superstars Bob Marley and Peter Tosh when they lived in a slum in the capital of Kingston. They catapulted to international fame with the album, “Catch a Fire" and also helped popularize Rastafarian culture among better-off Jamaicans starting in the 1970s.
Carla Wallenda, a member of “The Flying Wallendas” high-wire act and the last surviving child of the famed troupe's founder, died March 6, at the age of 85. She was the daughter of Karl Wallenda, who had founded the troupe in Germany before moving to the United States in 1928 to great acclaim. She was the aunt of aerialist Nik Wallenda.
Roger Mudd, the longtime political correspondent and anchor for NBC and CBS who once stumped Sen. Edward Kennedy by simply asking why he wanted to be president, died March 9, 2021. He was 93. During more than 30 years on network television, starting with CBS in 1961, Mudd covered Congress, elections and political conventions and was a frequent anchor and contributor to various specials.
Dianne Durham, the first Black woman to win a USA Gymnastics national championship, died Feb. 4, 2021. She was 52. Durham was a pioneer in American gymnastics. Her victory in the all-around at the 1983 national championships as a teenager was the first by a Black woman in the organization's history.
Chick Corea, a towering jazz pianist with a staggering 23 Grammy Awards who pushed the boundaries of the genre and worked alongside Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, died Feb. 9, 2021. He was 79. A prolific artist with dozens of albums, Corea in 1968 replaced Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis’ group, playing on the landmark albums “In a Silent Way” and “Bitches Brew.”
Marty Schottenheimer, who won 200 regular-season games with four NFL teams thanks to his “Martyball” brand of smash-mouth football but regularly fell short in the playoffs, died Feb. 8, 2021. He was 77. Schottenheimer was the eighth-winningest coach in NFL history. He went 200-126-1 in 21 seasons with Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington and San Diego.
Nancy Bush Ellis
Nancy Bush Ellis, a longtime Democrat who helped her Republican brother and nephew get elected president, died Jan. 10, 2021, of complications of the coronavirus. She was 94. She supported and campaigned not only for her brother George H.W. Bush, and her nephew George W. Bush, but for other family members running for public office, including nephew Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.
Paul Westphal, a Hall of Fame player who won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 1974 and later coached in the league and in college, died Jan. 2, 2021. He was 70. A five-time All-Star guard, Westphal played in the NBA from 1972-84. After winning a championship with the Celtics, he made the finals in 1976 with Phoenix, where he was a key part of one of the most riveting games in league history. After his playing career ended, Westphal moved into coaching. He led the Suns to the NBA Finals in 1993, and also was head coach of Seattle and Sacramento.
Don Sutton, a Hall of Fame pitcher who was a stalwart of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation spanning an era from Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela, died Jan. 19, 2021. He was 75. A four-time All-Star, Sutton had a career record of 324-256 and an ERA of 3.26 while pitching for the Dodgers, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, California Angels and the Dodgers again in 1988, his final season. The durable Sutton never missed a turn in the rotation in 756 big league starts. Only Cy Young and Nolan Ryan made more starts than Sutton, who never landed on the injured list in his 23-year career.
Gerry Marsden, lead singer of the 1960s British group Gerry and the Pacemakers that had such hits as “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and the song that became the anthem of Liverpool Football Club, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” died Jan. 3, 2021. He was 78.
Gregory Sierra, best known for his roles in "Sanford and Son" and "Barney Miller," died on Jan. 4, 2021, from cancer. He was 83. Sierra's most prominent roles were in sitcoms from the 1970s. In NBC's "Sanford and Son," he was a series regular as the Sanfords' neighbor Julio Fuentes. Later, he portrayed Miguel "Chano" Amanguale, a detective on ABC's "Barney Miller." Sierra also had supporting or guest roles in "All in the Family," "Hill Street Blues," "Miami Vice," and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."
Hall of Fame songwriter
Jim Weatherly, who wrote “Midnight Train to Georgia" and other hits for Gladys Knight, Glen Campbell and Ray Price, died Feb. 3, 2021. He was 77. Weatherly, who was also a star quarterback for Ole Miss in the 1960s, wrote a number of hits for Gladys Knight & The Pips, including “(You’re the) Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me,” “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” and “Where Peaceful Waters Flow."
Pedro Gomez (left in photo), a longtime baseball correspondent for ESPN who covered more than 25 World Series, died Feb. 7, 2021. He was 58. Gomez joined ESPN as a Phoenix-based reporter in 2003 after being a sports columnist and national baseball writer at The Arizona Republic since 1997. He was best known at the network for his coverage of Barry Bonds and his pursuit of the home-run record during the steroid controversy.
Floyd Little, the versatile running back who starred at Syracuse and for the Denver Broncos, died Jan. 1, 2021, after a long bout with cancer. He was 78. Little was a three-time All-American at Syracuse, where he wore No. 44 like Jim Brown and Ernie Davis before him. From 1964-66, he ran for 2,704 yards and 46 touchdowns. Little was the sixth overall pick in the 1967 AFL-NFL draft. He played nine seasons in Denver, where he earned the nickname “The Franchise” because his signing was credited with keeping the team from relocating.
Dick Hoyt, who inspired thousands of runners, fathers and disabled athletes by pushing his son, Rick, in a wheelchair in dozens of Boston Marathons and hundreds of other races, died March 17, 2021. He was 80.
Sarah Obama, the matriarch of former U.S. President Barack Obama's Kenyan family has died. She was at least 99 years old. Mama Sarah, as the step-grandmother of the former U.S. president was fondly called, promoted education for girls and orphans in her rural Kogelo village.
Johnny Pacheco, who was a co-founder of Fania Records, Eddie Palmieri’s bandmate and backer of music stars such as Rubén Bladés, Willie Colón and Celia Cruz, died Feb. 15, 2021. He was 85.
Prince Markie Dee
Prince Markie Dee, a member of the Fat Boys hip-hop trio who later formed his own band and became a well-known radio host, died Feb. 18, 2021. He was 52. Born Mark Morales in Brooklyn, Prince Markie Dee was a prolific songwriter and founding member of the Fat Boys, a group known for beatboxing that released several popular albums in the 1980s such as the platinum record “Crushin'.”
Arturo Di Modica
Arturo Di Modica, the artist who sculpted Charging Bull, the bronze statue in New York which became an iconic symbol of Wall Street, died Feb. 19, 2021, in his hometown in Sicily at age 80. The sculptor lived in New York for more than 40 years in New York. He arrived in 1973 and opened an art studio in the city's SoHo neighborhood. With the help of a truck and crane, Di Modica installed the bronze bull sculpture in New York’s financial district without permission on the night of Dec. 16, 1989.
Neil Sheehan, a reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who broke the story of the Pentagon Papers for The New York Times and who chronicled the deception at the heart of the Vietnam War in his epic book about the conflict, died Jan. 7, 2021. He was 84. His account of the Vietnam War, “A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam,” took him 15 years to write. The 1988 book won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.
Bobby Brown, an infielder who played on five World Series champions with the New York Yankees and later became a cardiologist and president of the American League, died March 25, 2021. He was 96. Brown played with the Yankees from 1947-54, with Yogi Berra his roommate. He spent eight seasons in the majors and played in a career-high 113 games in 1948, batting .300 with three home runs, 48 RBIs. Overall, he batted .279 with 22 home runs and 237 RBIs. He was president of the American League from 1984-94. Commissioner Rob Manfred called him a “proud Yankee” and “quiet star.”
Larry McMurtry, the prolific and popular author who took readers back to the old American West in his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lonesome Dove” and returned them to modern-day landscapes in works such as his emotional tale of a mother-daughter relationship in “Terms of Endearment,” died March 25, 2021. He was 84.
Howard Schnellenberger, who revived football at the University of Miami and Louisville and started the program at Florida Atlantic during a coaching career that spanned a half century, died March 27, 2021. He was 87. Schnellenberger had a career record below .500, but when it came to building, he was a winner. His legacy includes campus stadiums at Louisville and Florida Atlantic.
Anne Beatts, a groundbreaking comedy writer with a taste for sweetness and the macabre who was on the original staff of “Saturday Night Live” and later created the cult sitcom “Square Pegs,” died April 7, 2021. She was 74. Starting in 1975 and running for five seasons, Beatts was among a team of gifted writers that included Rosie Shuster, Alan Zweibel, Marilyn Suzanne Miller and such cast members as Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase who helped make “Saturday Night Live” a cultural phenomenon.
Rep. Alcee Hastings, the fiercely liberal longtime Florida congressman who was dogged throughout his tenure by an impeachment that ended his fast-rising judicial career, died April 6, 2021. He was 84. Hastings was known as an advocate for minorities, a defender of Israel and a voice for gays, immigrants, women and the elderly. He held senior posts on the House Rules Committee and the Helsinki Commission, which works with other countries on a variety of multinational issues.
Lee Hart, the wife of former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado, died April 9, 2021. She was 85. Hart campaigned for her husband during his runs for the Senate and the White House.
Black Rob, known for his hit “Whoa!” and key contributions to Diddy's dominant Bad Boy Records in the 1990s and early 2000s, died April 17, 2021. He was 52. His debut album “Life Story,” released in 2000, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard charts and went platinum, led by the infectious single “Whoa!”
Alma Wahlberg, the mother of entertainers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg and a regular on their reality series “Wahlburgers,” has died. She was 78. The Boston-born mother of nine became a household name thanks to her appearances on the A&E series “Wahlburgers,” about the family’s burgeoning burger chain.
Les McKeown, the former lead singer of the 1970s Scottish pop sensation Bay City Rollers, died April 20, 2021, at age 65. Formed at the end of the 1960s, the Bay City Rollers enjoyed huge success in Britain and abroad with their tartan outfits and pop tunes like “Bye Bye Baby," “Shang-a-Lang" and “Give a Little Love.” They had a fanatical teen following and sold more than 100 million records. Some in the British media called them the “biggest group since the Beatles”.
Tempest Storm, the legendary burlesque star who blazed a trail for strip-tease artists for more than a half-century, died April 20, 2021. She was 93. Storm would become an internationally famous figure, selling out clubs across the country. She was featured in many feature films by pioneers Russ Meyer and Irving Klaw, including a co-starring role with Bettie Page in Klaw’s 1955 film “Teaserama.”
Idriss Deby Itno
Idriss Deby Itno, who ruled Chad for more than 30 years and became an important ally to Western nations in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa, was killed April 19, 2021, while battling against rebels in the north. He was 68.
Jim Steinman, the Grammy-winning composer who wrote Meat Loaf's best-selling “Bat Out Of Hell" debut album as well as hits for Celine Dion, Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler, died April 19, 2021. He was 73. Steinman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012 and won album of the year at the 1997 Grammy Awards for producing songs on Celine Dion's “Falling Into You," which celebrated its 25th anniversary last month and featured the Steinman-penned power ballad “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now."
Twenty-time Grammy winner
Al Schmitt, whose extraordinary career as a recording engineer and producer included albums by Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and many other of the top performers of the past 60 years, died April 26, 2021, at age 91.
Jonathan Bush, the younger brother of the late President George H.W. Bush and uncle of former President George W. Bush, died May 5, 2021. He was 89. Bush, who worked in finance, was the last surviving of the family's five siblings.
Pervis Staples (pictured far left), whose tenor voice complimented his father’s and sisters’ in the legendary gospel group The Staple Singers, died May 6, 2021. He was 85. Staples sang gospel songs with his father, the guitar-playing Roebuck "Pops” Staples, and sisters Mavis, Yvonne and Cleotha in Chicago churches before gaining a national following when they began recording songs such as “So Soon,” “If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and “Uncloudy Day” for Vee Jay records in the 1950s.
Norman Lloyd, whose role as kindly Dr. Daniel Auschlander on TV’s “St. Elsewhere” was a single chapter in a distinguished stage and screen career that put him in the company of Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin and other greats, died May 11, 2021. He was 106.
Colt Brennan, a star quarterback at the University of Hawaii who finished third in the 2007 Heisman Trophy balloting, died May 11, 2021. He was 37. Brennan transferred to Hawaii after stints at Colorado and Saddleback College in California. A certain pro prospect after a record-breaking junior season, he bypassed the NFL draft in order to play his senior year for Hawaii coach June Jones. Brennan led the Warriors to its finest season ever, going 12-0 in the regular season.
Damon Weaver, the student reporter who gained national acclaim when he interviewed President Barack Obama at the White House in 2009 died May 1, 2021. He was 23. Weaver was 11 when he interviewed Obama for 10 minutes in the Diplomatic Room on Aug. 13, 2009, asking questions that focused primarily on education. He covered school lunches, bullying, conflict resolution and how to succeed.
Jim “Mudcat” Grant
Jim “Mudcat” Grant, the first Black 20-game winner in the American League and a key part of Minnesota's first World Series team in 1965, died June 12, 2021. He was 85. Grant spent less than four full seasons of his 14-year major league career with the Twins, but they were by far his best.
Clarence Williams III
Clarence Williams III, who played the cool undercover cop Linc Hayes on the counterculture series “The Mod Squad” and Prince’s father in “Purple Rain,” died June 4, 2021. He was 81. A native of New York, Williams career spanned over five decades in theater, television and film. He was born into a creative family in 1939 and raised by his musical grandparents. He got his acting start on Broadway after a stint as a paratrooper and received a Tony nomination for his role in William Hanley’s “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground” in 1964. His breakout role would come with “The Mod Squad,” which he led with Peggy Lipton and Michael Cole.
Jim Fassel, whose bold guarantee of a playoff bid late in the 2000 season seemingly catapulted the New York Giants to a spot in the Super Bowl, has died. He was 71. Fassel, the 1997 NFL coach of the year, guided the Giants from 1997 to 2003, posting a 58-53-1 record. He was 2-3 in the postseason, including a 34-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl in February 2001.
Lisa Banes, who appeared in numerous television shows and movies, including “Gone Girl” in 2014 and “Cocktail” with Tom Cruise in 1988, died June 14, 2021, 10 days after being injured by a hit-and-run driver in New York City. She was 65. On television, Banes had roles on “Nashville,” “Madam Secretary,” “Masters of Sex” and “NCIS.”
Jack B. Weinstein
Jack B. Weinstein, a former federal judge who earned a reputation as a tireless legal maverick while overseeing a series of landmark class-action lawsuits and sensational mob cases in New York City like that of the “Mafia Cops,” has died. He was 99. Weinstein, a World War II veteran appointed by President Lyndon Johnson, had spent more than five decades on the bench in Brooklyn before retiring last year.
Mike Gravel, a former U.S. senator from Alaska who read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record and confronted Barack Obama about nuclear weapons during a later presidential run, died June 26, 2021. He was 91. Gravel represented Alaska as a Democrat in the Senate from 1969 to 1981.
John Langley, who was the creator of the long-running TV series “Cops,” died June 26, 2021, of an apparent heart attack during a road race in Mexico. He was 78. “Cops” was among the first reality series on the air when it debuted in 1989, and it would become an institution through 32 seasons. Langley and production partner Malcolm Barbour had shopped the idea for years, and found a home for it on the fledgling Fox network.
Richard Donner, who helped create the modern superhero blockbuster with 1978’s “Superman” and mastered the buddy comedy with the “Lethal Weapon” franchise, died July 5, 2021. He was 91.
Dilip Kumar, hailed as the “Tragedy King” and one of Hindi cinema's greatest actors, died July 7, 2021. He was 98. The “Tragedy King” title came from Kumar’s numerous serious roles. In several, his character died as a frustrated lover and a drunkard. He also was known as Bollywood’s only Method actor for his expressive performances identifying a character’s emotions.
Jovenel Moïse, a former banana producer and political neophyte who ruled Haiti for more than four years as the country grew increasingly unstable under his watch, was assassinated at his home July 7, 2021. He was 53.
Jehan Sadat, widow of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, the first Arab leader to make peace with Israel, died in Egypt on July 9, 2021. She was 87.
Edwin Washington Edwards, the high-living four-term governor whose three-decade dominance of Louisiana politics was all but overshadowed by scandal and an eight-year federal prison stretch, died July 12, 2021. He was 93.
Gloria Richardson, an influential yet largely unsung civil rights pioneer whose determination not to back down while protesting racial inequality was captured in a photograph as she pushed away the bayonet of a National Guardsman, died July 22, 2021. She was 99. Richardson was the first woman to lead a prolonged grassroots civil rights movement outside the Deep South. In 1962, she helped organized and led the Cambridge Movement on Maryland's Eastern Shore with sit-ins to desegregate restaurants, bowling alleys and movie theaters in protests that marked an early part of the Black Power movement.
Robert "Bob" Moses
Robert Parris Moses, a civil rights activist who was shot at and endured beatings and jail while leading Black voter registration drives in the American South during the 1960s and later helped improve minority education in math, died July 25, 2021. He was 86. Moses, who was widely referred to as Bob, worked to dismantle segregation as the Mississippi field director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights movement and was central to the 1964 “Freedom Summer” in which hundreds of students went to the South to register voters.
Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican known as a consensus-builder in an increasingly polarized Washington, died July 26, 2021, after he broke his neck in a bicycle accident. He was 77.
Bill Freehan, an 11-time All-Star catcher with the Detroit Tigers and key player on the 1968 World Series championship team, died Aug. 19, 2021, at age 79. He played his entire career with the Tigers, from 1961 through 1976. Besides All-Star appearances, including all 15 innings in the 1967 game, Freehan was awarded five Gold Gloves.
Sonny Chiba, who wowed the world with his martial arts skills in more than 100 films, including “Kill Bill,” died Aug. 19, 2021. He was 82. Chiba rose to stardom in Japan in the 1960s, portraying samurai, fighters and police detectives, the anguished so-called “anti-heroes” trying to survive in a violent world. He did many of the stunt scenes himself. Quentin Tarantino cast Chiba in the role of Hattori Hanzo, a master swordsmith in “Kill Bill.”
Tom T. Hall
Tom T. Hall, the singer-songwriter who composed “Harper Valley P.T.A.” and sang about life’s simple joys as country music’s consummate blue collar bard, died Aug. 20, 2021. He was 85. Known as “The Storyteller” for his unadorned yet incisive lyrics, Hall composed hundreds of songs. He helped usher in a literary era of country music in the early ’70s, with songs that were political, like “Watergate Blues” and “The Monkey That Became President,” deeply personal like “The Year Clayton Delaney Died,” and philosophical like “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine.”
Rod Gilbert, the Hall of Fame right wing who starred for the New York Rangers and helped Canada win the 1972 Summit Series, has died. He was 80. From Montreal, Gilbert spent his entire 18-year NHL career with the Rangers. Gilbert recovered and ended up with 406 goals and 615 assists in 1,065 regular-season games and 34 goals and 33 assists in 79 playoff games. He holds Rangers records for goals and points.
George Holliday, the Los Angeles plumber who shot grainy video of four white police officers beating Black motorist Rodney King in 1991, died of complications of COVID-19 on Sept. 19, 2021. He was 61. Holliday's out-of-focus footage — about 9 minutes worth — was a key piece of evidence at the four officers' criminal trial for assault and excessive use of force.
Jane Powell, the bright-eyed, operatic-voiced star of Hollywood's golden age musicals who sang with Howard Keel in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and danced with Fred Astaire in “Royal Wedding,” died Sept. 16, 2021. She was 92.
Jo Lasorda, the widow of Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, died Sept. 20, 2021. She was 91. The former Joan Miller met Tommy Lasorda at a minor league baseball game in her hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, where he was playing for the Spinners. They wed on April 14, 1950, a union that lasted 70 years until Tommy’s death last January at age 93.
Melvin Van Peebles
Melvin Van Peebles, the groundbreaking filmmaker, playwright and musician whose work ushered in the “blaxploitation” wave of the 1970s and influenced filmmakers long after, died Sept. 21, 2021. He was 89. Sometimes called the “godfather of modern Black cinema,” the multitalented Van Peebles wrote numerous books and plays, and recorded several albums — playing multiple instruments and delivering rap-style lyrics. He later became a successful options trader on the stock market.
Alan Kalter, the quirky, red-headed announcer for David Letterman for two decades who frequently appeared in the show's comedy bits, died Oct. 4, 2021. He was 78. Kalter was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 21, 1943. Nicknamed “Big Red” for his hair, he provided the opening introductions on the “Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS from September 1995 until Letterman's last episode on May 20, 2015. As Letterman would walk and run onto the stage, Kalter would introduce him with a sarcastic flair as “the king of unsocial media,” “nocturnal rainforest mammal” and other monikers.
Raymond T. Odierno
Raymond T. Odierno, a retired Army general who commanded American and coalition forces in Iraq at the height of the war and capped a 39-year career by serving as the Army's chief of staff, died Oct. 8, 2021. He was 67.
Max Cleland, who lost three limbs to a Vietnam War hand grenade blast yet went on to serve as a U.S. senator from Georgia, died Nov. 9, 2021. He was 79. Cleland, a Democrat, served one term in the U.S. Senate, losing a 2002 re-election bid to Republican Saxby Chambliss. He also served as as administrator of the U.S. Veterans Administration, as Georgia Secretary of State and as a Georgia state senator.
Sam Huff, the hard-hitting Hall of Fame linebacker who helped the New York Giants reach six NFL title games from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s and later became a popular player and announcer in Washington, died Nov. 13, 2021. He was 87.
Robert Bly, one of the most prominent American poets of the last half century and author of the best-selling men’s movement classic “Iron John,” died Nov. 21, 2021. He was 94.
Mick Rock, whose iconic portraits of rock stars including David Bowie, Lou Reed and Debbie Harry saw him dubbed “the man who shot the 70s,” died Nov. 19, 2021. He was 72.