With 2021 finally dawned upon us, it brings a new beginning to what was for sure one of the most tumultuous years in anyone’s recent memory in the year 2020, with a plethora of events that occurred (and many still recurring) that need no repeating. We all know of what went down and what’s going on, things which have spilled over and are still extreme challenges in this new year. In short, 2020 was a year most of, if not all, of us would soon rather forget.
However, what shouldn’t be forgotten are the names of the many luminaries in entertainment that we lost last year, also a stunning amount of creatives and well-knowns of seemingly every type and stripe. While in a lot of ways an “in memoriam” list seems rather arbitrary and irrelevant considering the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the United States alone last year during the pandemic and of people who became global martyrs by way of insurrectional behaviors by authoritative figures all across America, a list like this becomes in a way necessary, as it’s important to give the proper respect and final send off to some of the individuals who touched our lives in so many ways, especially during last year, when all forms of entertainment became not only entrenched in its typical “escapism,” but also became a healing balm in a sense, something that helped people push through during the darkest times of necessary state and governmental-enforced bondage on us all. And it is for that reason, that we present some of our heroes, guiding lights, inspirations, and illuminations who left us in 2020.
Eddie Van Halen Guitarist, songwriter, inventor (Van Halen, co-founder)
This one was particularly a tough one, because we all knew that man had been sick the last few years and then had made what seemed to be miraculous recoveries. Many of us felt that indeed, there was to be more ahead, more music to come, more of that incendiary magic from a man who almost singlehandedly changed the way people played guitar. Eddie Van Halen unfortunately lost his battle with cancer on October 6th at the age of 65, but left a legacy and a catalog of music that will endure. While some feel that his best work with had been done when this namesake band shot into a punk-laden world in the late 1970s with singer David Lee Roth, even if that’s all that was to be taken into merit, the guitarist’s pioneering of tapping and rapid fire arpeggios, (something people like Al DiMeola did first, but couldn’t bring it to the masses as Eddie did) is enough to put him with the all-time greats. You know the best tunes and the best albums, and you know their endurance level is timeless, much like we thought about the man himself.
Neil Peart Drummer, lyricist, author (Rush)
Another giant of the music world, and who left us in the first week of 2020, on Jan 7th, the nucleus of Canada’s all-time trio Rush, Neil Peart’s death was completely out of left field, completely unexpected, having been ill with brain cancer for almost three years prior without the public knowing. Considered one of the greatest rock and roll drummers of all time, Peart came into the band on their second album Fly By Night and instantly enveloped what was a Zeppelin retread in the finest sense, to a progressive rock juggernaut who made sci-fi apocalyptic imagery in his lyrics and brought Ayn Rand to the mainstream. His approach with everything he did in the band was with a workman-like precision, literally and figuratively placing every note in its place, like a jeweler crafting a work of art through a lupe, painstaking, yet breathtaking. For millions of fans and would-be drummers around the world, Neil Peart, like many of the greatest drummers of all time, created an instantaneous sound and style that was all his own, and it was something that he kept up on the highest level right until the end when Rush retired from the stage in the mid 2010s. His limelight hasn’t ebbed since then and in his passing, it shines even more blindingly brighter than ever.
Ennio Morricone Composer (scored The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; A Fistful of Dollars; The Thing)
Ennio Morricone was a musical legend of a completely different stripe and style, yet equally as legendary, even more so than the two aforementioned musicians. As vital and as important as Star Wars composer John Williams in terms of scoring some of cinema’s finest hours, Morricone had a career that spanned almost 70 years and over 70 films. Arguably it’s his work with master director Sergio Leone that he may be best remembered for, especially for Leone’s “spaghetti Western” films, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly remains an extant classic, immediately recognizable after a few opening notes. But his legacy and craft spanned much further. A short list of his other work includes scoring for Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables; Bugsy, and Bulworth, both starring Warren Beatty; John Carpenter’s The Thing; and one of his last scores, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, for which he unbelievably won his only competitive Academy Award. Morricone was 91 when he passed on July 6th.
Alex Trebek Game Show Host (Jeopardy)
Whilst the Canadian-born Alex Trebek is remembered mostly in America for being one of the finest hosts in game show history, culminating with his locked-in erudite wry style he utilized on TV’s Jeopardy for over 35 years and right up to his death, he was much more than that. Also a stalwart host and presenter for the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Trebek covered a sundry amount of topics for that company’s television and radio mediums, including sports, entertainment, culture and the like. He hosted many of the late legendary piano player Glenn Gould’s performances, and even covered sports and hosted morning shows. But it wasn’t until he started doing the game show circuit that he became his most famous, with shows like High Rollers in the 1970s (in which his big mustache and bushy afro became an associated physical trademark with him long before Jeopardy) and bouncing all over various shows that while may have had small lives before cancellation, kept Trebek in the public eye and keeping him as a viable host. Trebek had been battling pancreatic cancer for almost two years (he made public announcements about it and kept the public up to date as it went along) before succumbing to the disease on Nov 8th at the age of 80.
Terry Jones Actor (Monty Python, The Wind in the Willows)
Terry Jones was one of the members of the British comedy troupe Monty Python, which spearheaded a form of comedy in which was almost anti-comedy, which trampled and stamped on conventions of the genre that had existed prior, turning it on its ear with its irreverence and crass, take-no-prisoners approach and wound up shaping and influencing a legion of followers who to this day all try to imitate it, but can never equal it. Jones was one of the more active members behind the scenes in the group as well, co-directing with American animator and Python member Terry Gilliam all of the Python films, including the controversial and hilarious it-wasn’t-Jesus Life of Brian; the crude, comedically audacious, tasteless, uneven yet fits right in with the Python oeuvre and then some Meaning of Life; and the arguably crown jewel of the entire Python canon, the cult film raised to the highest apex and one of the funniest films ever made, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In each of them, like their Flying Circus TV show and like his five fellow Pythonians, Jones exhibited a penchant for being able to slip into and play almost any character. He and Python left a legacy behind that millions of fans still relish in equal parts hilarity and awe. Jones was 77 when he died on January 21st.
Chadwick Boseman Actor (Marvel’s Black Panther, 42, Get On Up)
Like Neil Peart’s passing, the premature death of Chadwick Boseman was equally as stunning, not least because it was completely unexpected. Boseman had been privately battling colon cancer for four years up until his death at the young age of 43 on August 28th, and he continued to work, creating challenging, popular, and introspective projects right up until the end. He started out playing three of the biggest panjandrums of the 20th century, the color-barrier-breaking baseball player Jackie Robinson in 42, the dynamic musician James Brown in Get On Up, and as Thurgood Marshall in the film of that name. In each of them, he manifested a dynamism and completely embodied the characters, especially in Get on Up, in which he channelled the soul of James Brown, in terms of his electricity, positive and negative, on stage and off. But it was his title role as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that made him a global supernova, his role and the film itself, became an unexpected surprise in a way, and transcended the genre (which was already successful in itself) to heights that made it Oscar worthy and set a bar that films that tried to follow its blueprints couldn’t achieve. Marvel’s Black Panther was in a complete class by itself, transcending and touching the nerve centers of people everywhere with its grace and charm and respect, much like Boseman himself.
Jerry Stiller Actor, comedian, author (King Of Queens, Seinfeld, Zoolander); his Seinfeld character created the holiday Festivus
The perennial funnyman spanned generations of fans, first as one-half of Stiller and Meara, his comedy team-up with wife of over 60 years, the late Anne Meara, who also had a career like her husband’s that was firmly entrenched in comedy with some drama fringe roles here and there. Jerry Stiller had a later in life career resurrection playing neurotic dads, first on one of the most celebrated sitcoms of all time, Seinfeld, as Frank Costanza, the father of the Larry David-cum-George Costanza, with equal bizarre, maladjusted mettle – his character is best known for creating the anti-Christmas holiday Festivus, an observance still going strong til this day. Later, he played Arthur Spooner on the Honeymooners retread The King of Queens. These later roles, along with those on the big screen with his and Meara’s son Ben Stiller (Zoolander, The Heartbreak Kid), kept Stiller as a memorably venerable performer and in the limelight and public eye right up until his death at the age of 92 on May 11th. Stiller is survived by his and Anne Meara’s two children, comedian Anne and almost as talented as his mom and dad, jack of all comedic and in later years even dramatic trades, Ben.
Ian Holm Actor (The Lord of the Rings & Hobbit films, Alien, Chariots of Fire, Fifth Element)
Most American audiences remember Ian Holm as the eventually traitorous cyborg in Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece of sci-fi horror Alien, but he was much, much more than that. The English actor was a Tony Award winner, with illuminating performances on the theater stage in projects like The Homecoming and the title role in Shakespeare’s King Lear. He was Academy Award nominated for his role as an athletics trainer in Chariots of Fire, transcending the stereotypical approach of how most actors played those roles in sports films. To later audiences, most of whom had discovered him for the first time, he was the elder Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s lauded Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film franchises. But most importantly, Ian Holm remained a likable larger than life figure who endeared those he worked with and those who viewed him on theatrical stages, television, and film screens right up until the end, on June 19th at the age of 88.
Kobe Bryant Athlete, writer, producer (NBA basketball LA Lakers)
The shocking and tragic death of Hall of Famer Los Angeles Laker for life Kobe Bryant still sends shockwaves around not only the coterie of the NBA, via its past and present players, but also the world. Bryant, for many, your humble narrator included, remains one of the all-time greatest players to ever lace up shoes and step on the hardwood. Displaying a jaw-dropping talent and panache for the game barely out of his teens, he played on an exemplary level for almost 20 years, with five NBA Championships along the way and an endless well of individual moments of performance in games that likened him to the second coming of Michael Jordan, the arguable highest point being when he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006. The only player to ever score more in NBA history was another titan of the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain, who scored 100 points in a game in 1962. But Kobe Bryant was more than an NBA player, he was an Academy Award winner (shared for the short film Dear Basketball), and after he retired from the Lakers in 2016, became a smart businessman who had a multitude of projects lined up ahead. He also co-wrote and produced a series of young adult novels. It all ended in the most tragic of circumstances when Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, including John Altobelli, an esteemed college baseball coach, and members of Altobelli’s family, died in a helicopter crash in the mountains of Calabasas, California on January 26th. Bryant was 41.
Leslie West Guitarist, singer, songwriter (Mountain, co-founder)
Leslie West, the rotund G(uitar)-Whiz who made a wall of Marshall amplifiers sound like a pneumatic jackhammer in one’s face with the jagged rock and roll triumvirate known as Mountain, died on Dec 23rd after a long illness. He leaves a legacy behind as one of rock music’s guitar greats with his vocals and musical cleaver, utilizing a booming sound akin to the volume levels of what Jimi Hendrix and early Grand Funk Railroad were doing. But West also gave equal heft and lift to the many quiet numbers he did with the expansive works of Mountain, numbers which sounded like tremor shocks rumbling underneath that band’s granite foundation of sound, style, and ragged charisma. For those who only know one of Top 40s most powerful anthems of all time, the chock-a-block skyscraper riffs of “Mississippi Queen,” they are urged to look further than that to discover and hear a man who made no bones about his craft and made sure the listener didn’t either.
Bill Withers Singer, songwriter (“Lean on Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Just the Two of Us”)
With his musical class, elegance, and surefooted approach to Rhythm and Blues in his simplistic yet highly emotional approach, Bill Withers was the rare example of an artist who hit the bullseye of a mainstream again and again, while still remaining one hundred percent true to the styles and sounds that got him there in the first place. Whether it was the anthemic R&B/Gospel savior song “Lean on Me” to the then once you’ve leaned on him, now you can do what you want in “Use Me,” and the wonderful ballads which transcend the stereotypes of the genre in “Lovely Day” and “Just the Two of Us,” Withers presented to a public and an African-American race a kind of “It’s okay if everyone just takes it easy” ease in his craft. Unlike his equal level American contemporaries like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Gil Scott Heron, and Curtis Mayfield, who used their platforms to aggressively hammer messages of inequality and polarity in society to their masses, Withers, while not ever overtly political, was able to still press the same kind of buttons in people, albeit with a more human approach, hitting the soul of the listener rather than the cerebellum for the most part. His fire was never one from ire, but more of a warm approach always, like an eternal slow and low flame, much like who the man was himself in his public persona. Withers was 81 when he died on March 30th.
As one of the founding members of the electronic German cavalcade known as Kraftwerk, Florian Schneider and his band members were literally light years ahead of themselves when they first started in 1970. Using the flute as a bottom end instrument and using electronic sounds like guitars and early forms of synthesizers in repetitive senses, Florian and Kraftwerk, literally, like Miles Davis or Fela Kuti, created an entire genre. The band remains one of those either like them or shake your head in bewilderment kind of ensembles, and each of their records from their peak period (mid to late 1970s), titles such as Autobahn, The Man-Machine, and what many consider their breakthrough release and finest hour, Trans-Europe Express, still influences scores of would-be musicians to this day. In fact, any artist who creates hypnotic, misty, vague idiomatic snatches of sound, owes heavy debts to what manifested from the creative talents of Schneider and Kraftwerk. Although the band continues on to this day after he left in 2006, his presence and sheer force of gravitas as a key member and Krafter of Kraftwerk remains full force and on high. He died at the age of 73 on April 20th.
Buck Henry Actor, writer, director (The Graduate, co-created Get Smart, Heaven Can Wait)
Comedic mastermind Buck Henry helmed projects as varied and all successful as co-creating TV’s James Bond on its ear comedy Get Smart; co-writing The Graduate, which still remains one of cinema’s all time great films, and countless hosting appearances on the “classic era” of television’s Saturday Night Live (1975-1980). Henry was at first glance unassuming, a bespectacled almost virtual nebbish who was almost like a second coming of Wally Cox, the almost forgotten in today’s era, comedic actor of the ’50s and ’60s (check Wikipedia about him oh young ones). But like Cox, Henry was a Superman of his talents behind the almost Clark Kent physical visage, endeared by all in the industry. Longtime SNL producer Lorne Michaels summed it up best about Henry when he mentioned that he usually would have him host the last episode of each season of that show during its first five seasons, because the people running the show, from the writers to the cast to the crew, all felt a sense of comfort when he was there, and it made the weekly pressure cooker grind of being able to come up with fresh and vital comedic material, especially when the show was in its first peak of success at that time, much easier for all. Henry was 89 when he died on January 8th.
Max Von Sydow
Max von Sydow Actor (The Exorcist, Flash Gordon, Dune, Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Swedish actor Max von Sydow remains one of the most chameleonic of his or any generation. Whether it was his magnetic performance in Bergman’s exemplary The Seventh Seal, to his role as the titular character Father Merrin in the still powerful wallop to the chest of a film in The Exorcist, or later adventurous roles in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, JJ Abrams’s first Star Wars entry The Force Awakens, and culminating with an eleventh hour career standout role on Game of Thrones, Sydow excelled at playing sinister villains to torn individuals with the same paradigmatic aplomb and equal verve and inside and outside fortitude. He died at the age of 90 on March 8th.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg U.S. Supreme Court Justice; feminist & cultural icon
A true champion of women’s rights and gender equality before it almost seemingly became fashionable once the masses caught up, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a fearless colossus, a leviathan in many ways, who took on the Supreme Court countless times for various issues of human and socio-economic importance and usually won. Dubbed later in her life as “The Notorious RBG,” a nickname she welcomed and enjoyed, it perfectly encapsulated her boundless courage. She had valiance in her bloodstream and it not only opened multitudinous avenues for her and in essence by doing so countless masses as well, it also spearheaded a career that culminated with a seat as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1993, until her death at the age of 87 on Sept 18th. The legacy Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves behind is not only monumental in the forward thinking and propulsion for women all over the world, but for all genders and all people all over the world, the likes of which we may never again see in our lifetime.
Little Richard Singer, musician, songwriter (“Tutti Frutti” “Long Tall Sally”, “Good Golly, Miss Molly”)
One of the most exciting R&B artists of all time, “Little” Richard Penniman was anything but diminutive in his scope, vision, and unabashed way he sang, performed, and spoke. Whereas his contemporaries in the 1950s like Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis also were vital in the genesis of rock and roll, Little Richard took their musical diagrams and upped the ante of the genre, creating music that was so alive, so urgent, so audacious in its presentment, it almost made all the others seem like musical damp squibs, regardless of how important to the genre all the aforementioned men were, and all who were to later cover his material during their own careers. With simple arranged songs with throwaway names like “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” Little Richard was a blazing comet in the industry, the likes of which influenced the then-teenaged John Lennon and Paul McCartney and countless others, all who cut their teeth on cover versions of his songs when first starting their own respective bands. The importance and scope of the sound and vision of the influence Little Richard had and continues to have is truly incalculable and boundless. The records still explode through the speakers as soon as the tone arm hits the vinyl or the play button is pressed and the force of the man hasn’t lost one ounce of luster and never will, ever. Simply put, one cannot call themselves a rock fan in any form of the genre without treading into the works of this true genius at least once. Little Richard was 87 when he died on May 9th.
Helen Reddy Singer, songwriter (“I Am Woman”); Addison’s disease spokesperson
At first glance, Helen Reddy might easily be dismissed as pop pap, an indigestible form of music arguably only reserved for bottom basement Streisand or Ronstadt fans, somewhere in between the two. But make no mistake of the woman’s sheer force and staying power when she first hit paydirt with songs like the more-relevant-than-ever “I Am Woman” or the fan favorite “Delta Dawn.” If you remember the 1970s or were a kid then like I was, you couldn’t turn the television on and not see her on a variety show, a talk show, or her own special or someone else’s, or even in films like the mindless-yet-fun disaster flick Airport 75 and the still beloved Disney vehicle Pete’s Dragon. She and her then-husband, the controversial yet incredibly magnetic and successful manager/husband Jeff Wald, created a career that catapulted her into the stratosphere. Almost forgotten by today’s generation and ones of recent years, Helen Reddy should not be overlooked, but the contrary, to be remembered as not a one-hit wonder, but a wonder and an early champion and beacon of the second wave of feminism, a word which has now become commonplace and almost transcendent in all genders of the human race in the 21st century. The Australian-born Reddy had Addison’s disease (same illness President John F. Kennedy had) and battled dementia for the last few years, and passed away at the age of 78 on September 29th, right on the heels of the release of a biopic of her life, entitled (what else?) I Am Woman.
Carl Reiner Actor, director, writer (The Jerk, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Summer School)
One of the great comedic A-listers from the television’s “golden age” in the 1950s, Carl Reiner had a career that embodied all scopes of the genre. Writing for and acting with Sid Caesar in Your Show of Shows, being one of the key creators of The Dick Van Dyke Show, acting as the straight man to Mel Brooks’ 2,000 Year Old Man, directing now comedy classics such as Oh God (starring another comedy legend George Burns in the title role), and The Jerk with Steve Martin (the first of many collaborations between the two cinematically), Reiner was a comedian’s comedian, an aristocrat who had illimitable comic energy in front of and behind the camera that never let up. His son Rob also sports many of the chapeaus originally worn by Reiner and is a worthy incarnate of the same kind of do-it-all and do-it-successfully templates so expertly drafted by his father. Carl Reiner died on June 29th at the age of 98.
David Prowse Actor (played Darth Vader in the Star Wars films; A Clockwork Orange)
An imposingly towering figure handling the physicality of Darth Vader (as voiced by James Earl Jones), David Prowse, like his co-stars Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, or Peter Mayhew, will always be remembered as the figure inside the character in the Star Wars series. The British actor, who got his start as a bodybuilder before becoming an actor, can be glimpsed out of costume in Stanley Kubrick’s controversial and potent difficult masterpiece A Clockwork Orange and in other projects as varied as appearances on The Benny Hill Show and as The Black Knight in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky (not to be confused with the Black Knight in Gilliam and Terry Jones’ Monty Python and the Holy Grail). But it’s still the menacing and steel in the veins villainous portrayal of Darth Vader that will keep Prowse in the pop cultural ether for all time. Prowse died on November 28th at the age of 85.
Joe Ruby and Ken Spears Animation team, creators of Scooby-Doo
An animation team and co-founders of the company Ruby-Spears Productions, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears created Scooby-Doo during their tenure at Hanna-Barbera, a cartoon that was originally released in 1969 and seemed to meld Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries with a kind of lighthearted late 1960s youth, to create a program and a franchise that still runs on high to this very day, still spawning movie adaptations and marketing of every stripe that has kept the character in the public consciousness for six decades and counting. After the two men left Hanna-Barbera and formed the aforementioned Ruby-Spears, they weren’t able to produce programs that were on the same level as their former employers, but still managed to produce shows that were stalwart staples of late 1970s/early 1980s Saturday Morning TV, with fun fare such as Fangface, The Plastic Man Comedy Hour, Thundarr the Barbarian, and arguably their biggest success, Alvin and the Chipmunks, which reintroduced a new audience and generation to those characters, who had first made a splash almost 20 years prior at that point. Although the two had sold the company’s catalog to Turner Broadcasting in the early 1990s, they continued to develop projects, right up until Ruby’s death on August 26th at the age of 87 and Spears’ passing at the age of 82 on November 6th.
Kenny Rogers Singer, songwriter, actor (“The Gambler”, “Lady”, “Islands in the Stream”)
At first, Kenny Rogers was an exciting showman, leading The First Edition, who carved a name for themselves in psychedelic pop history with the top five hit, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and the slow cooker “Something’s Burning,” both released just as the 1960s gave way to the 70s. About ten years later, Rogers became something all-together different, a pop-styled showman in the country music idiom, and it propelled him to superstar status. With a catalogue comprised of mostly mid-tempo musical locutions that spoke of primers on how to gamble and tearjerker soft soakers like the Lionel Ritchie-penned “Lady,” the submissive to the love of his life and staunch eternal wedding song tracks “She Believes in Me,” “You Decorated My Life,” and the duet with the equally successful in the genre Dolly Parton “Islands in the Stream,” Rogers was a true example of an artist who was able to cross over genres and forage successes in each. He remained a living legend to countless fans who kept his career on a virtual endless coast, even when in his later years his albums and songs were released to more of a cult success than his prior one. Rogers was 81 when he died on March 20th.
Martin Birch Music producer (Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Fleetwood Mac, BOC)
Unquestionably the King Midas of the pre- and post-English Metal scene of the 1970s and 80s, the wunderkind producer Martin Birch is remembered as being as legendary as the countless bands he produced. Starting out as an engineer for bands such as the early bluesy Buckingham/Nicks/Christine McVie-less Fleetwood Mac (who’s original guitarist, Peter Green, passed away on July 25th) to all of Deep Purple’s Mark II and III releases (records that include smash after smash, like In Rock, Machine Head, Live in Japan, Burn, and others), Birch then became an in-demand producer for that genre, helming the early records of Rainbow and Whitesnake (both bands with ex-Purple members), which gave way to another watershed moment in his career, producing the earliest masterpieces by Iron Maiden, starting with their second release, 1981’s Killers/em> and the seminal Number Of The Beast all the way up to the their 90’s efforts No Prayer for the Dying and Fear of the Dark. All those aforementioned albums showcased Birch’s aural penchant for crafting sounds of the bands that exemplified their strengths, power, and style, a bombast on the highest magnitude and especially volume. Birch died at the age of 71 on August 6th.
Brian Dennehy Actor (Cocoon, First Blood, Death of a Salesman, Tommy Boy)
One of Hollywood’s most celebrated character actors, Brain Dennehy seemed to stretch his scope everywhere, appearing in every genre of the medium, with countless roles on popular TV programs of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, in films such 1982’s First Blood, as the unlikable Sheriff Will Teasle who gets more than he bargained for when he tries to control Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo in the first entry in that cinematic franchise; Cocoon the Ron Howard octogenarian fantasy and its sequel; and even later comedic turns in the cult laughfest Tommy Boy. He also appeared in countless made-for-TV films, the Robert Blake-as-Jimmy Hoffa miniseries Blood Feud being a standout. All of these projects and ions more kept Dennehy afloat in the audience’s eyes and the industry’s, up until his passing at the age of 81 on April 15th.
Diana Rigg Actress (1960’s Avengers TV series, Game Of Thrones, James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
First known to audiences as Emma Peel in the British show The Avengers (not to be confused with the Marvel film franchise) and then enjoying a career resurgence late in life as the Queen of Thorns Olenna Tyrell on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Diana Rigg was a thinking person’s sex symbol to those who only saw her in that image and a classy actress to those in the know. An acclaimed star of the stage who was a member of The Royal Shakespeare Company in the late 1950s in her native England, Rigg mostly did projects in that country, which kept her professional and social status consistent throughout her long career. A highlight of her American films is undoubtedly the criminally underrated and almost forgotten about in today’s world motion picture from 1971, The Hospital, a glorious black comedy written by famed scribe of the small and large screen Paddy Chayefsky, in which Rigg held her own, sharing screen time with George C. Scott. Rigg was 82 when she died on Sept 10th.
Tom Seaver Major League Baseball player
Rightfully nicknamed “Tom Terrific,” Tom Seaver was a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher who played for five teams in his illustrious career, but is best remembered as a member of The New York Mets, who racked up individual achievement after individual achievement during his tenure with that team: Rookie of the Year in 1967, World Series Champion in 1969 with “The Miracle Mets,” and a National League Pennant winner in 1973, racking up 19 strikeouts in an early season game in 1970, tying the all-time record at the time, and winning Cy Young Awards with the Mets in 1973 and 1975. He was controversially traded in 1977 to the Cincinnati Reds and then went on to pitch his only no-hitter in his career a year later. By the time he finished his career in 1986 with the Boston Red Sox, he had accumulated over 3,500 strikeouts and over 300 wins, both landmark achievements that made him a virtual shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, which enshrined him in 1992. He also acted as a color commentator for ABC and later NBC, providing commentary for baseball games alongside legendary announcers such as Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell, and Vin Scully. He even in his later years provided analysis during the broadcasting of Yankee games, putting him in the company of a scant few who had done TV broadcasting work for both New York major league baseball teams. A beloved favorite not only in New York lore, but also baseball lore itself, Seaver passed away at the age of 75 on August 31st.
Seaver is also part of a list of other Hall of Fame pitchers who left us in 2020, which includes the menacing and fierce on the mound St. Louis Cardinal Bob Gibson; Yankee fan favorite Whitey Ford; the only person still to pitch a perfect game in a World Series Brooklyn Dodger Don Larsen; knuckleball monarch Phil Niekro; as well as reliable and powerful hitters like the Chicago White Sox’s Dick Allen (him and Don Larsen are the only names on the list still yet to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame); the Detroit Tigers hero at the plate time and time again Al Kaline; one of the best second basemen of all time Cinncinati Red Joe Morgan; and St. Louis Cardinals base-stealing extraordinaire Lou Brock.
Sean Connery Actor (James Bond, Highlander, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
One of the greatest and most beloved actors of all time, Scotsman Sean Connery coasted for over a decade as a struggling journeyman actor until he landed the role of an actor’s lifetime, playing the first incarnation of the suave confident secret agent 007 James Bond. It was Connery who created the template, look, and feel of Ian Fleming’s famed literary character on the silver screen, and it was a template that all the actors who followed suit as the character in later productions adhered to and continue to follow to this very day. Connery’s portrayal of James Bond set the bar on high and arguably even though all who followed were successful in their own right as the character, none of them even came close to the way Connery did it with such ease. Of course he had the luxury of not having to follow anyone, but it seemed that even if he had, he still would have staked his claim as the best incarnation of the character. And although he did not enjoy the public success the Bond films gave him, films like Dr. No, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Goldfinger, and From Russia With Love, it gave him a carte blanche to expand his career as an A-list actor in other films, working with esteemed directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet, John Huston, and Richard Attenborough, and capped with a later in his life and career success as a pragmatic Irish cop in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables, which netted him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. By that point thereafter, Connery was a living legend of the highest order, finding even more success in films like the third installment of the Indiana Jones series, playing that character’s father, and kept things going with releases like starring roles in The Hunt for Red October and The Russia House. To say Sean Connery was a cinematic icon is a given, and his passing closes a success story in Hollywood of epic and almost mythological proportions. Connery was 90 when he passed away on October 31st.
We also remember the following who passed in 2020, for their contributions to the entertainment industry and to the arts:
Reed Mullin: drummer, songwriter (Corrosion of Conformity, co-founder)
Frankie Banali: drummer (Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P.)
Peter Green: guitarist, singer, songwriter (Fleetwood Mac, co-founder)
Bob Kulick: guitarist, producer (KISS, Meat Loaf, W.A.S.P., Doro)
Pete Way: bassist (UFO, co-founder; Waysted, co-founder)
Paul Chapman: bassist (UFO, co-founder; Waysted, co-founder)
Lee Kerslake: drummer (Uriah Heep; Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard Of Ozz)
Ken Hensley: keyboardist, songwriter (Uriah Heep)
Jason Rainey: guitarist (Sacred Reich)
David Roback: guitarist, songwriter (Mazzy Star, co-founder)
John Prine: singer, songwriter (“Angel from Montgomery”, “Sam Stone”)
Sid McCray: singer (Bad Brains)
Jimmy Winston: keyboardist (The Small Faces, co-founder)
Tony Costanza: drummer (Machine Head, co-founder)
Mark Stone: bassist (original bassist for Van Halen)
Jack Sherman: guitarist (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Steve Holland: guitarist (Molly Hatchet)
Walter Lure: guitarist (Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers)
Spencer Davis: guitarist, singer (The Spencer Davis Group, co-founder)
Martin Griffin: drummer (Hawkwind)
Steve Priest: bassist (Sweet, co-founder)
Bill Rieflin: drummer (King Crimson, Ministry, NIN)
Sean Reinert: drummer (Cynic, Gordian Knot, Death)
Sean Malone: bassist (Cynic, Gordian Knot)
Adam Schlesinger: musician, songwriter, producer (wrote “That Thing You Do!” song)
Alan Merrill: musician, songwriter (wrote “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”)
Brian Howe: singer, songwriter (Bad Company, Ted Nugent)
Matthew Seligman: bassist (Thompson Twins, The Soft Boys, Thomas Dolby); played for David Bowie at 1985’s Live Aid
Rupert Hine: producer (Rush’s Presto and Roll The Bones)
Riley Gale: singer (Power Trip)
Malik B.: singer (The Roots, co-founder)
Charlie Daniels: singer, songwriter, musician (Charlie Daniels Band “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”)
Johnny Nash: singer, songwriter (“I Can See Clearly Now”)
Bonnie Pointer: singer, songwriter (The Pointer Sisters)
Trini Lopez: singer (“If I Had A Hammer”)
Sally Cato: singer, writer (Smashed Gladys)
Ray Burton: father of late Metallica bassist Cliff Burton
Benjamin Keough: son of Lisa Marie Presley, grandson of Elvis Presley
Bob Plotnik: owner of Bleecker Bob’s Records in Greenwich Village NYC
Richard Herd: actor (Seinfeld, T. J. Hooker, V, Star Trek: Voyager)
Kirk Douglas (died at 103): actor, author (Spartacus, Paths of Glory, Lust for Life)
Olivia de Havilland (died at 104): actress (Gone With the Wind, Captain Blood)
Honor Blackman: actress (1960’s Avengers TV series, Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger)
Wilford Brimley: actor (Cocoon, The Thing)
Ann Reinking: actress, dancer, choreographer (All That Jazz, Annie, Micki & Maude, Chicago)
Kelly Preston: actress (Jerry Maguire, Sky High, What a Girl Wants)
David Lander: actor (Squiggy on Laverne & Shirley)
Fred Willard: actor (Anchorman, This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman)
Jeremy Bulloch: actor (played Boba Fett in the Star Wars films)
Hugh Keays-Byrne: actor (Mad Max; played Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road; Farscape)
Ja’Net Dubois: actress, singer (Good Times, The Wayans Bros., The PJs); co–wrote & sang The Jeffersons theme song
Alan Parker: director (Pink Floyd The Wall, Mississippi Burning, Angela’s Ashes, Fame)
Joel Schumacher: director (The Lost Boys, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, St. Elmo’s Fire)
Regis Philbin: talk show host, game show host (Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire)
Robert Conrad: actor (The Wild Wild West)
Lee Fierro: actress (Mrs. Kintner in the Jaws films)
James Lipton: actor, TV host, writer (Inside the Actors Studio)
Naya Rivera: actress (Glee, The Bernie Mac Show)
Conchata Ferrell: actress (Two and a Half Men)
Shirley Knight: actress (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Paul Blart: Mall Cop)
John Saxon: actor (Enter the Dragon, A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Lyle Waggoner: actor (Wonder Woman, The Carol Burnett Show)
Lynn Cohen: actress (Sex and the City, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Munich)
Irrfan Khan: actor (Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, The Amazing Spider-Man, Jurassic World)
Mary Pat Gleason: actress (Guiding Light, Mom, A Cinderella Story)
Natalie Desselle-Reid: actress (Eve, Cinderella, Madea’s Big Happy Family)
Sam Lloyd: actor (Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, Cougar Town)
Lynn Shelton: director (The Morning Show, Marc Maron: End Times Fun, Fresh Off the Boat)
Stuart Gordon: director, writer (Re-Animator, Masters of Horror, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids)
Wes Wilson: artist (best known for his 1960s psychedelic concert posters)
Christo: artist (famous for installation art like “The Gates” in Central Park NYC)
Siah Armajani: artist (designed Olympic Torch for 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta)
John Lewis: civil rights activist, writer, U.S. politician, one of the original Freedom Riders
Dawn Wells: actress (Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island, Return to the Bat Cave)
Denny O’Neill: writer (DC Comics Batman, Green Lantern)
Bob the cat: Cat who inspired the book series and film A Street Cat Named Bob
Chico, the Chihuahua: dog actor (Broadway version of Legally Blonde)
Gli the cat: Internet celebrity cat who lived in the Hagia Sophia Mosque
Henri, le Chat Noir: cat actor (Henri short films)
Lupo, the dog: English Cocker Spaniel owned by Prince William and Kate Middleton; inspiration for The Adventures of Lupo the Royal Dog book series
Nigel, the golden retriever: dog actor (Gardeners’ World)
Tsim Tung Brother Cream: Internet celebrity cat; inspired the book Brother Cream in East TST