From daytime television star Billy Miller to musicians Steve Harwell and Sinead O’Connor, the following celebrities are among the biggest stars who have died this year.
Listed below, by date, are celebrities who have died in 2023, leaving behind storied legacies in the film, television and music industries.
Phyllis Coates (october 11)
Known for her portrayal of Lois Lane on television’s Adventures of Superman in 1952, making her the first actress to play the iconic character on TV, Coates died of natural causes Wednesday at age 96, her daughter Laura Press confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. She only played the role for one season before being replaced by Noel Neill, reportedly because of conflicts with producers and other projects she had committed to (the show ran for six seasons before ending in 1958). Coates first assumed the role of Lois Lane in the 1951 film Superman and the Mole Men, the first feature film to star the titular hero, or any DC Comics character. Coates began her show business career as a chorus girl, touring with the United Service Organizations to perform for U.S. Armed Forces members, before landing small roles in films like Smart Girls Don’t Talk (1948) and My Foolish Heart (1949). Coates starred in an extensive number of film and television projects throughout the 1950s following her Superman success, including Jungle Drums of Africa (1952), Panther Girl of the Kongo (1954) and Girls in Prison (1956). Though she starred in few projects after the 1960s, Coates made her final appearance on screen in Hollywood: The Movie (1996), according to her IMDB page. Coates was portrayed by actress Lorry Ayers in the film Hollywoodland (2006), a fictionalized account of the mysterious circumstances of the death of actor George Reeves, who played Superman opposite Coates’ Lois Lane.
Dianne Feinstein (september 28)
Feinstein died Thursday night at age 90 as the longest-serving woman in U.S. Senate history. She was elected as California’s first female senator in 1992 in a special election (alongside Barbara Boxer, who was elected the same night) and won reelection five times. Feinstein was known for her gun control advocacy and authored the 1994 assault weapons ban (which expired in 2004) and repeatedly pushed for stricter gun laws, stating in 2018 she was “a woman on a mission to ban assault weapons.” Feinstein has attributed her gun control efforts to the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk; Feinstein, then the president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, was the first to find Milk’s body and shortly after announced their deaths to the press. After Moscone’s death, Feinstein automatically became acting mayor of San Francisco, winning reelection twice and holding that office for a decade. As mayor, Feinstein passed a ban on handgun possession and dedicated funding to HIV/AIDS research. Feinstein faced numerous health complications over the past year, including a bout with shingles that kept her out of the Senate for more than two months, and ensuing encephalitis and vision and balance issues. Feinstein faced, and resisted, calls to resign, though she pledged earlier this year not to run for re-election in 2024. Her death prompted tributes from politicians on both sides. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a moment of silence for Feinstein Friday and called her “one of the most amazing people who ever graced the Senate, who ever graced the country.” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) called Feinstein “a political giant whose tenacity was matched by her grace . . . a dear friend, a lifelong mentor, and a role model not only for me, but to my wife and daughters for what a powerful, effective leader looks like.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Feinstein gifted him a depiction of the Capitol in 1992, which he said he looked at Friday morning and “remembered our dear colleague as a truly remarkable individual.”
Michael Gambon (september 28)
Gambon, an Irish actor best known for playing Professor Albus Dumbledore in six of the eight Harry Potter films, died on September 28 at age 82 after becoming ill with pneumonia. Gambon’s career as an actor spanned six decades, beginning with his professional stage debut in a 1962 production of William Shakespeare’s Othello. He performed on the stage for much of his early career and earned a Tony Award nomination in 1997 for his performance in Skylight. Gambon made his film debut in 1965, also in a production of Othello, and has starred in such films as The Wings of the Dove (1997), The Insider (1999) and The King’s Speech (2010). He was also renowned for his work on British television, winning four BAFTA Awards for his performances in The Singing Detective (1986), Wives and Daughters (1999), Longitude (2000) and Perfect Strangers (2001). Gambon assumed the role of Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in the third film in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), after the death of Richard Harris in 2002. Gambon played Dumbledore until the conclusion of the series with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (2011). The official Harry Potter social media accounts paid tribute to Gambon following his death. “We are incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of Sir Michael Gambon. He brought immeasurable joy to Harry Potter fans from all over the world with his humour, kindness and grace. We will forever hold his memory in our hearts,” the account posted on X.
Billy Miller (september 15)
Miller, best known for his roles in The Young and the Restless and General Hospital, died at 43 in Austin, just two days before his 44th birthday, multiple news outlets reported. In a statement to Variety, Miller’s manager said he was “struggling with manic depression when he died,” though his cause of death hasn’t been released. Miller was a daytime television star for years, with his first role being Richie Novak in All My Children in 2007. He later went on to win three Daytime Emmys for his work on The Young and the Restless. According to IMDb, Miller’s last acting appearance was on NCIS in 2022.
Steve Harwell (september 4)
Best known as the former lead singer of Smash Mouth, Harwell died of liver failure at age 56. Harwell co-founded the rock band in 1994 alongside Kevin Coleman, Greg Camp and Paul De Lisle. The band released its debut album, Fush Yu Mang, in 1997, which contained the band’s debut single, and its first hit, “Walkin’ on the Sun,” and a cover of War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” Greater recognition came with the band’s second album, Astro Lounge, which has been certified 3x platinum in the United States and contains the band’s most well known and only Grammy-nominated track, “All Star.” The song became a popular culture staple, largely thanks to its use in several films, most notably Shrek (2001) in which “All Star” plays over the opening credits. When “All Star” became the subject of internet parodies nearly two decades after its release, Harwell joked that the band had “invented the meme.” After nearly three decades with the band, Harwell retired in 2021 citing health issues, following a performance in which he appeared intoxicated, slurred his words, threatened fans and appeared to do what some say looked like a Nazi salute onstage. At the time, Harwell’s representatives said videos of the performance were taken out of context and the musician had been battling with cardiomyopathy. Harwell’s manager Robert Hayes announced he was receiving hospice care and was expected to have just days to live on September 3; he died the next day. “Steve Harwell was a true American Original. A larger than life character who shot up into the sky like a Roman candle. Steve should be remembered for his unwavering focus and impassioned determination to reach the heights of pop stardom,” Hayes said in a statement.
Jimmy Buffett (september 1)
Jimmy Buffett, the musician known for his tropical rock sound, died of a rare form of skin cancer on September 1 at age 76. Buffett was most widely known for his hit song “Margaritaville,” an ode to the cocktail and island relaxation, which he capitalized on and turned into a billion-dollar fortune. In 1985, Buffett turned Margaritaville into a business empire, first launching retail stores and merchandise lines and ultimately opening a restaurant chain and resorts inspired by his biggest hit. At the time of his death, Forbes estimated Buffett’s net worth to be $1 billion. Buffett was also known for his other hits, like “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” Tributes to Buffett poured in on social media shortly after his death, including tributes from President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton and Paul McCartney. “Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs,” a statement posted to Buffett’s website says. “He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”
Bob Barker (august 26)
Bob Barker, who hosted mid-day game show “The Price Is Right” from 1972 until his retirement in 2007, died on Saturday, according to his publicist Roger Neal. He was 99. In a statement, Neal called Barker the “World’s Greatest MC who ever lived.” Barker got his start in showbusiness in the 1950s, becoming the host of “Truth or Consequences” in 1956, and hosting the game show for 20 seasons through 1975. He was awarded the world record for consecutive appearance hosting game shows by the Guinness Book of World Records with more than 6,800 episodes (late “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek surpassed him in 2014). Barker, who handed the reigns of the show to Drew Carey in 2007, has received 19 Daytime Emmy Awards, as well as an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2004.
Clarence Avant (august 13)
Avant, who had the unofficial title of “godfather of Black entertainment,” died Sunday in his home in Los Angeles at the age of 92, multiple outlets reported. His family, who announced the news in a statement, did not provide a cause of death. Avant’s influence spread from music—where he started labels and managed musicians—to sports, where he produced a television special for Muhammad Ali and helped athletes like Hank Aaron secure partnerships, the Associated Press reported. In the political world, Avant served as an unofficial, and sometimes official, adviser to Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama, Variety reported. Despite his various pursuits, he was most known for his role as a mentor in the entertainment industry. In 2021, Lionel Richie inducted Avant into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and he was awarded the Industry Icon Award at the Grammys.
Mark Margolis (august 3)
Margolis, best known for his role as Mexican cartel boss Hector Salamanca in director Vince Gilligan’s hit series Breaking Bad, passed away on August 3 at New York City’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, his son Morgan Margolis announced on Friday, multiple outlets reported. He was 83. Margolis, whose credits include the Al Pacino thriller Scarface (1983) and the Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly mind-bender Requiem for a Dream (2000), was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2012 for outstanding guest actor in a drama series for his role in AMC’s Breaking Bad, and reprised the role in the Bob Odenkirk-led prequel Better Call Saul.
Angus Cloud (announced July 31)
Cloud, a young actor best known for his role in Euphoria as warmhearted drug dealer Fezco, died at the age of 25, according to a statement from his family reported by multiple outlets. The statement from Cloud’s family did not make clear when the actor passed, nor the nature of his death. However, the family noted Cloud recently buried his father and “intensely struggled” with the loss. “The only comfort we have is knowing Angus is now reunited with his dad, who was his best friend,” the statement said, adding Cloud “was open about his battle with mental health.” Cloud’s role as Fezco, a protective and considerate drug dealer that befriends Zendaya’s Euphoria character, Rue Bennett, was lauded by fans as one of the show’s more likable characters. The teen drama won nine Emmy Awards of the 25 distinctions it was nominated for. Cloud has acting credits for North Hollywood and The Line and music video roles with artists like Becky G and the later rapper Juice WRLD. Cloud was also cast this year for an upcoming horror movie from the directors of Scream VI. “We hope the world remembers him for his humor, laughter and love for everyone. We ask for privacy at this time as we are still processing this devastating loss,” Cloud’s family said in their statement.
Paul Reubens (july 30)
Reubens, an actor and comedian best known for his Pee-wee Herman character, died on July 30 at age 70, his official Pee-wee Herman Instagram account confirmed on Monday. Reubens began his career in the 1970s, performing at comedy clubs and joining the comedy troupe The Groundlings as an improv actor. He came up with the Pee-wee Herman character while a member of the Groundlings in 1978, soon developing “The Pee-wee Herman Show,” a stage production that ran for five sold-out months and landed Reubens his own HBO special. The character soon became a hit franchise: Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Big Top Pee-wee, two feature films, were released in 1985 and 1988, respectively, and the children’s show Pee-wee’s Playhouse ran on CBS between 1986 and 1990. The Pee-wee Herman character was retired for years after Reubens was arrested in 1991 for indecent exposure at an adult movie theater. Later that decade, Reubens appeared in several high-profile projects unaffiliated with Pee-wee Herman, such as the 1999 film Mystery Men and the 2001 film Blow. Reubens would later revive Pee-wee Herman for a 2010 Broadway show, The Pee-wee Herman Show, and Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, a 2016 Netflix film. Reubens died after a private battle with cancer, issuing a posthumous apology on his Instagram for not publicly addressing his health struggles. The announcement of his death on his Instagram referred to Reubens as an “iconic American actor, comedian, writer and producer whose beloved character Pee-wee Herman delighted generations of children and adults with his positivity, whimsy and belief in the importance of kindness.”
Sinead O’connor (july 26)
The Irish singer, known for her rendition of the Prince song “Nothing Compares 2 U” and her politically outspoken views, died at age 56, her family told the BBC. O’Connor topped charts around the world, including in her home country for 11 weeks and the United States for four weeks, with “Nothing Compares 2 U” in 1990, which earned her three Grammy nominations. The song was just as famous for its music video, which is almost entirely shot as a close-up of O’Connor’s face while she sings. The video won the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year. O’Connor released her first of 10 studio albums, The Lion and the Cobra, in 1987, and her final album, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, in 2014. O’Connor was widely known for her controversial decision to tear up a picture of Pope John Paul II during her 1992 Saturday Night Live performance of Bob Marley’s “War,” which she opted to sing in protest of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. O’Connor would defend her actions for decades after the incident, writing in her 2021 autobiography Rememberings: “Everyone wants a pop star, see? But I am a protest singer. I just had stuff to get off my chest.” O’Connor was also open about her mental health struggles, which included a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis and the cancelation of her 2012 tour because of a breakdown. She suffered the tragic loss of her 17-year-old son, Shane, in January 2022, who was found dead after going missing. She canceled her planned concerts in 2022 due to ongoing grief over her son’s death. O’Connor is survived by three children. “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad,” O’Connor’s family said in a statement. “Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”
Tony Bennett (july 21)
The iconic jazz singer, known for his long career and performing well into his 90s, died July 21 in New York City. Praised for his warm and charismatic persona as well as his interpretations of the Great American Songbook, Bennett’s career spanned more than 70 years and more than 60 albums, beginning with Because of You in 1951. The album landed him his first two No. 1 singles: “Because of You” and “Cold, Cold Heart.” He continued to release classic hit songs, like “Rags to Riches” and “Stranger in Paradise” in 1953 and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in 1962, which won Bennett his first two Grammy Awards. After some years of struggle, starting in the 1960s as rock and roll music took over the charts and he split with his record label, Columbia Records, in 1971, Bennett saw a resurgence in the 1980s after his son took over managing his career, landing him television spots like The David Letterman Show and the MTV Video Music Awards which would connect him with a younger audience. A recording of Bennett’s 1994 performance on MTV Unplugged won him the Grammy for Album of the Year. In later years, Bennett became known for his collaborations with younger artists, most notably Lady Gaga, with whom he released two albums—Cheek to Cheek in 2014 and Love for Sale in 2021—the former a collection of jazz standards, and the latter a Cole Porter tribute album. Bennett’s final performance was with Gaga in 2021 at a Radio City Music Hall show called “One Last Time.” Though Bennett performed until 2021, his wife, Susan Bennett, revealed that year he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years earlier. Bennett won 19 competitive Grammy Awards throughout his career and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.
Alan Arkin (june 30)
The actor, whose career on screen and stage spanned eight decades, died at his California home on June 29. Arkin won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for one of his best known roles in the 2006 film Little Miss Sunshine. His first of more than 100 acting credits, according to his IMDB page, was an uncredited appearance in the 1957 film, Calypso Heat Wave. He’s since starred in a number of acclaimed and beloved projects, garnering additional Oscar nominations for The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966), The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968) and Argo (2012). Among his final, most notable roles was the Netflix series The Kominsky Method, for which he received two consecutive Emmy nominations. Arkin was a prolific stage actor and director earlier in his career, and won a Tony Award in 1963 for starring in Enter Laughing and earned another nomination 10 years later, this time for directing The Sunshine Boys. Arkin was known for both his comedic strengths and his dramatic skill, and in 2018, he released what he considers a “mini-memoir,” Out of My Mind, which he said explores “an adventurous other side of me. I’m very proud of it.” The next year, Arkin was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In a joint statement, Arkin’s sons, Adam, Matthew and Anthony mourned the loss of their father and celebrated his legacy as an actor: “Our father was a uniquely talented force of nature, both as an artist and a man. A loving husband, father, grand and great grandfather, he was adored and will be deeply missed.”
Daniel Ellsberg (june 16)
Former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg died at the age of 92 on June 16. Ellsberg was an analyst for the Secretary of Defense Robert Namara’s report on the Vietnam War, which later became known as the Pentagon Papers. Because he thought the war was immoral and unwinnable, Ellsberg, along with Anthony Russo, copied all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers and leaked it to the New York Times. But after publishing a first part of its series, President Richard Nixon took executive action to prevent it, and the courts granted an injunction against the Times, though ultimately the Supreme Court took the paper’s side in a 6-3 decision largely considered a major First Amendment victory for journalists. The Times published the papers—which described how the scope of the Vietnam War had secretly broadened and had become far more deadly under President Lyndon Johnson—sending the country into a frenzy, helping further erode the public’s support for the war. Ellsberg finally surrendered to authorities on June 28, 1971, to which the Nixon administration brought criminal charges of espionage, conspiracy and other crimes against him and Russo. But the trial judge threw Ellsberg’s case out, considering it a mistrial for wiretapping implications. Ellsberg spent much of the rest of his life as prominent anti-war activist. He died in his home in California due to pancreatic cancer, after being diagnosed earlier this year, according to The Washington Post.
Glenda Jackson (june 15)
English actress and politician Glenda Jackson died on June 15 at the age of 87. Jackson is a two-time Oscar winner, winning the award of best actress in a leading role for the films A Touch of Class (1973) and Women in Love (1969). She’s also a Golden Globe and two-time Emmy winner, winning awards for her roles in A Touch of Class and the show, Elizabeth R (1971), respectively. But after decades as one of the finest actresses of her generation, she went on to run for U.K. Parliament representing Labor in 1992 and won, staying in office until 2015, and spending over 20 years as a lawmaker and a minister of transport in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s first government in 1997. The actress-turned politician returned to acting shortly after her departure from politics, playing title character in Shakespeare’s King Lear, which opened at London’s Old Vic in 2016 and later played on Broadway. She also went on to star in her first film in a quarter-century, winning a BAFTA for her performance in Elizabeth is Missing in 2020. Jackson’s agent confirmed to CNN that she died peacefully in her sleep in her home in London after a brief battle with an unknown illness.
Cormac Mccarthy (june 13)
Author Cormac McCarthy, a great American novelist known for his portrayals of an often bleak, dystopian America often set in the West, died at the age 89 on June 13. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, McCarthy is best known for his novels All the Pretty Horses (1992), No Country for Old Men (2005) and The Road (2006). His 12 novels earned many awards, including the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Road, while the film based on his novel No Country for Old Men won an Oscar for best picture, best director, best supporting actor and best screenplay in 2009. His first commercially successful novel, All the Pretty Horses, won the National Book Award in 1992, and was later adapted to film. McCarthy’s son, Jon McCarthy, confirmed his death by natural causes through Penguin Random House, McCarthy’s publisher.
Tina Turner (may 24)
Often dubbed the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by the media, singer Tina Turner died at age 83 on May 24. Turner rose to prominence as one-half of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, a musical duo with her ex-husband known for songs like “Proud Mary.” Turner was married to Ike Turner for sixteen years, whom she said was emotionally and physically abusive. After the duo split up in 1976 and the couple divorced in 1978, Turner continued a successful solo career, producing hits like “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” “Better Be Good To Me” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome).” Turner’s life and career inspired a biographical drama film, What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993), starring Angela Bassett as the singer. The musical Tina, chronicling the singer’s life set to her hit songs, hit both Broadway and the West End, and an Emmy-nominated documentary Tina premiered in 2021. Rolling Stone ranked Turner the 55th greatest singer of all time in January. She has reportedly sold more than 100 million records, won eight Grammy Awards and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Turner died after a long illness in her home in Küsnacht, near Zurich, Switzerland, her representative said.
Jim Brown (may 18)
Brown, regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time, died at age 87 on May 18. He played nine seasons for the Cleveland Browns between 1957 and 1965 and led the league for rushing for eight of those, rushing 12,312 yards and holding a 5.2 yards per carry average over his career. He led the team to an NFL Championship victory in 1964 before retiring the next year to turn to acting. He has more than 50 credits as an actor, according to IMDB, and led such films as 100 Rifles (1969) with Racquel Welch—who also died this year—in which they performed one of the first interracial love scenes. Brown was also known as a civil rights advocate: In 1988, he founded “Amer-I-Can,” a foundation aiming to stop gang violence in inner cities and give young Black people better economic opportunities. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, his first year of eligibility. “To the world he was an activist, actor and football star. To our family, he was a loving and wonderful husband, father, and grandfather,” his wife, Monique Brown, wrote in an Instagram post announcing his death. The Cleveland Browns paid tribute to Brown on Twitter, stating: “We mourn his passing, but celebrate the indelible light he brought to the world.”
Jacklyn Zeman (may 9)
A fixture on soap opera General Hospital for more than four decades, Zeman died after a “short battle” with cancer on May 9 at age 70. Zeman played the role of nurse Bobbie Spencer for 45 years on the show and received four Daytime Emmy nominations, as well as a fifth in 2021 for her role on The Bay. She was one of General Hospital’s longest-running cast members and has appeared in more than 900 episodes. Executive producer Frank Valentini announced her death on Twitter, calling her “a bright light and true professional that brought so much positive energy with her to work.” In an interview with TV Insider in December, reflecting on her almost half century on the show, Zeman called her character, who came from a troubled background, “never evil but she was naughty” and did not know how to trust others. She credited her long tenure on the show and General Hopsital’s enduring popularity to the show’s fans. “Fans sent me baby blankets for when my daughters were born,” Zeman said. “People will show me photos of when they met me 25 years ago.”
Jerry Springer (april 27)
Springer, best known as the politician-turned-host of “The Jerry Springer Show,” died on April 27 at 79 in Evanston, Illinois. He had a brief but controversial career in politics, winning election to the Cincinnati City Council in 1971 before resigning just three years later after admitting to paying prostitutes. He returned to politics the next year, winning re-election to the council, and served one year as mayor in 1977. He then turned to radio and television, hosting his eponymous daytime talk show from 1991 to 2018, which became a ratings hit for its shock value, its controversial subjects, and is credited with ushering a cruder, ruder form of reality television. Some of Springer’s most shocking segments have gone viral on his YouTube channel in the years since they’ve aired. In his most-viewed segment on YouTube—“Real Girlfriend Vs. Online Girlfriend,” which has 43 million views—Springer introduces a man having an online love affair to his internet girlfriend, whom he had never met before, with his real-life girlfriend present. The 12-minute segment culminated in shouting matches and fist-fights between the two women. Springer’s other most-viewed segments are just as melodramatic, including one segment viewed 18 million times where a woman finds out her boyfriend cheated on her with her co-worker, and another viewed 13 million times in which a woman’s stepmother made advances toward the woman’s boyfriend (both segments resulted in fist-fights). Months before his death, Springer jokingly apologized about the lasting influence of his show. “I’m so sorry. What have I done? I’ve ruined the culture,” he said on David Yontef’s Behind the Velvet Rope podcast. “I just hope hell isn’t that hot because I burn real easy.” Springer died of pancreatic cancer, his spokesperson confirmed after his death.
Harry Belafonte (april 25)
Belafonte died of congestive heart failure on April 25 at age 96. The actor-singer achieved wide popularity in the 1950s, breaking racial barriers at a time when segregation still consumed the nation. His 1956 album, Calypso, was reportedly the first album by a single artist to sell more than one million copies. Calypso topped the Billboard charts for 31 weeks and contains hits including “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.” Belafonte became one of the first people to have won each of the four major entertainment awards—an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony—though his Oscar was won in a noncompetitive category. He was a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a major civil rights activist, providing money to get King and other activists out of jail, and taking part in the March on Washington in 1963. Belafonte said he was initially optimistic about the fight for civil rights, but said he became more cautious after marchers were “met with tear gas and clubs and killing and Kent State and an intensification of the Vietnam War.” Decades later, as the Black Lives Matter movement grew in response to police killings and brutality of Black individuals, Belafonte expressed disappointment about the progress of civil rights: “When I took up with Martin, I really thought, two, at best three years this should be over. Fifty years later, he’s dead and gone, and the Supreme Court just reversed voting rights, and the police are shooting us down dead in the streets.”
Lance Reddick (march 17)
Reddick, an actor known for starring in The Wire and the John Wick franchise, died on March 17 at age 60. He worked small but vivid roles on television series like Law & Order and The West Wing before landing his main role as Baltimore police officer Cedric Daniels on HBO’s The Wire, often considered one of the greatest television series of all time. He most recently appeared in John Wick: Chapter 4, a box office his that’s grossed more than $400 million worldwide. He reportedly died of heart disease, according to a death certificate obtained by TMZ, though his family and family attorney have disputed this claim, calling it inconsistent with his physically fit lifestyle. Shortly before his death, Reddick taped an interview for The Kelly Clarkson Show, which aired the week after Reddick died. He appeared with John Wick co-stars Keanu Reeves and Ian McShane, calling the film “stunningly gorgeous” and praising its theme of family. At the premiere of John Wick: Chapter 4 just days after Reddick’s death, Reeves called Reddick a “beautiful person and special artist” and expressed his gratitude for being able to work with him on the John Wick films for ten years. Attendees at the premiere were given blue ribbon pins to wear in honor of Reddick, and the screening began with a standing ovation in the actor’s memory.
Bobby Caldwell (march 14)
Caldwell, who had a successful decades-long career as a singer, died on March 14 at age 71. Caldwell was known for his work in the R&B, soul and jazz genres, including his most famous, widely covered hit single, “What You Won’t Do For Love.” Artists who sampled or covered that song include Tupac Shakur, Natalie Cole, Peabo Bryson, Boyz II Men, Jessie Ware and English pop group Go West. His debut album Bobby Caldwell, released in 1978, went double-platinum in the United States, propelling him to fame. Caldwell’s influence on music was evident as tributes from admirers poured in after his death. On Instagram, musician Questlove expressed disappointment he never got to meet Caldwell, calling him “the closing chapter in a generation in which record execs wanted to hide faces on album covers so perhaps maybe their artist could have a chance,” a reference to how Caldwell’s face was concealed on his debut album cover so his racial ambiguity would increase the amount of radio stations that would play his music. Caldwell is white, but myths persisted that he was Black. Also on Instagram, Chance the Rapper shared a screenshot of a text exchange between him and Caldwell in which he asked for Caldwell’s permission to sample a song. “I’ll be honored if you sample my song,” Caldwell wrote. Rapper Common, who has also sampled Caldwell’s music, posted on Instagram: “I can’t thank you enough!”
Raquel Welch (february 15)
Welch, who rose to fame as a sex symbol and actress in the 1960s, died on February 15 at age 82. She became known for her role as a cavewoman in One Million Years B.C. (1966), a box-office success that rocketed her to fame in part because of her doe-skin bikini that adorned best-selling posters. She starred in such films as Fantastic Voyage (1966), Myra Breckinridge (1970), The Last of Sheila (1973) and The Wild Party (1975), and she won a Golden Globe for her role in The Three Musketeers (1973). In 1998, Playboy named Welch the No. 3 sexiest star of the 20th century, just behind Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Welch is also known for suing a major Hollywood studio for age discrimination—and winning. After she was abruptly fired from Cannery Row in 1981, allegedly because her insistence on doing her own hair and makeup at home violated her contract, MGM replaced her with Debra Winger, an actress 15 years her junior. Welch filed a $24 million lawsuit, stating: “What they did was use me to get financing for the movie, then they dumped me for Debra, which they’d been planning all along.” The jury sided with Welch, who was awarded more than $10 million, and the verdict was upheld in an appeals court years later.
Burt Bacharach (february 8)
One of the most important pop songwriters of the 20th Century, the composer and songwriter died at age 94 at his home in Los Angeles. He was known for his pop song compositions, many of which he collaborated with co-writer Hal David and singer Dionne Warwick. He wrote at least 52 top 40 hits, according to his website, including No. 1 hits like “This Guy’s in Love With You,” sung by Herb Alpert, and “That’s What Friends Are For,” sung first by Rod Stewart and then by Warwick to raise funds for AIDS research. Other artists Bacharach wrote or produced for include Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, Elvis Costello and Patti LaBelle. He won three Academy Awards—two for best original song, and one for best score—as well as six Grammy Awards and one Emmy Award. Bacharach has frequently been honored as one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century and of all time. He was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1972 and won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Bacharach and David as the 32nd-best songwriters of all time, praising David’s “knack for matching wistful sentiments to Bacharach’s unconventional jazz chords and constantly shifting time signatures.” Warwick said in a statement Bacharach’s death felt like “losing a family member.” On Twitter, Paul McCartney praised Bacharach’s work as distinctive and different from others in the 1960s and 1970s, calling him “an inspiration.”
Cindy Williams (january 25)
Williams, best known for her role as Shirley in the hit sitcom Laverne & Shirley, died on January 25 at age 75 following a brief illness. She starred on Laverne & Shirley from 1976 to 1982, appearing in 158 episodes, according to IMDB, and earned a Golden Globe nomination. Garry Marshall first pitched the show to ABC, recalling in 2000 there were “no shows about blue-collar girls on the air.” Williams was well known for her chemistry with co-star Penny Marshall, who died in 2013. Williams said the two had a sort of telepathy, stating: “If there were an Olympic event for comedy, I think we’d take the gold.” The two secured starring roles in their own show after becoming fan favorites as minor characters on the sitcom Happy Days. Williams’ successful run on Laverne & Shirley ended early: She was pregnant at the time and her character was written off the show, leaving Laverne on her own for much of the final season. She sued Paramount for $20 million to be paid for the episodes she would miss; the case was settled out of court for an unknown amount. Though Williams was best known for her sitcom work, she had a successful film career. She starred in three particularly acclaimed films from important directors: George Cukor’s Travels with My Aunt (1972), George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973) and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974).
David Crosby (january 18)
The musician died of Covid-19 complications on January 18 at age 81. He rose to fame as a member of two rock bands: The Byrds and later Crosby, Stills & Nash (and later, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young). His popularity in the 1960s and 1970s made him an icon of American counterculture, with lyrics that opposed the war in Vietnam. One of his songs, “Wooden Ships,” was written at the height of the Vietnam War and described the consequences of an apocalyptic war. Among the lyrics are descriptions of terror and dehumanization amid war: “Horror grips us as we watch you die / All we can do is echo your anguished cries / Stare as all human feelings die.” His activism extended well beyond the peak of his musical career. He tweeted opposition to the Vietnam War as recently as 2020, stating: “More than 50k American young guys DIED for that mistake.” With The Byrds, Crosby’s biggest hits on the Billboard charts include “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” a Bob Dylan cover. With Crosby, Stills & Nash, his biggest hits are “Wasted On the Way” and “Just a Song Before I Go.” He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a member of both of his rock bands, and he had a prolific solo career, releasing his final album in 2021.
Lisa Marie Presley (january 12)
Presley, a singer and the daughter of Elvis Presley, died on January 12 at age 54 of caridac arrest. TK. Presley embarked on a music career and released three albums. Her debut album, To Whom It May Concern, released in 2003 and charted in the top 5 in the United States. She was also well known for her brief marriage to Michael Jackson from 1994 to 1996, eloping with him less than three weeks after she finalized her divorce to Danny Keough. The relationship attracted media attention: Presley denied allegations that the marriage was a publicity stunt, and Jackson reportedly depended on Presley for support as accusations of child molestation were made against him during their relationship. Presley also appeared in the video for Jackson’s single, “You Are Not Alone.” Presley’s final public appearance had been just two days earlier at the Golden Globe Awards, where the film Elvis, a biographical drama about her father’s life, was nominated for multiple awards. She was buried at Graceland—her father’s mansion which is now a museum—next to her son, Benjamin Keough, who died in 2020 at age 27. Presley is survived by three children, including Riley Keough, an actress who most recently starred in Daisy Jones & The Six.
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