People We Lost: 2016 In Memoriam

By Peter SM RSS Fri, December 30, 2016

The Grim Reaper sure was clocking in a lot of overtime throughout 2016. It's definitely not an ordinary year when you wake up one day and the likes of David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Sir George Martin, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, and Carrie Fisher are no longer here. And that's obviously just touching the surface of the writers. artists, musicians, and pop culture icons we've lost this year.

And I say "we've" lost them because nowadays as soon as someone "famous" dies, you and everyone you know are probably aware of it before a legitimate news source knows; it only takes a second to dash off a tweet or status update. Since we're all plugged in—all the time, pretty soon we're all collectively mourning together out in cyberspace. Some would say the whole online experience cheapens the whole process of death, that it's just another incoming alert on your news feed to be glanced at and then it's on to scan the next listing. I'll admit that it does sometimes seem like we are in a constant state of mourning.

I think the other thing that makes 2016 unique, but definitely not cursed, is that the majority of the people who have passed away are bigger-than-ordinary-life; they've been looked upon as idols and inspirations for years. They're so embedded in pop culture that they seem immortal. Of course, they aren't—none of us. And when we come back down to earth and realize that time and life continue on unabated, well, that's a pretty sobering fact.

So, take the time to mourn your heroes, but then celebrate them even more so: read their books, watch their films, listen to their music on 11. Then take it one step further—be inspired by their lives, their art, and their contributions to this world. Get out there and make your own art, learn an instrument, take a class and learn something new, meet new friends and allies, and make the world a better place!

We only get one go-around, so make the most of it—the below list of people sure did.

Those who passed away this year, in (somewhat) chronological order:


  • Pat Harrington Jr., Actor – age 86 (played character of Schneider on One Day At A Time sitcom from 1970s)
  • Kitty Kallen, Big Band-era Singer – age 94
  • Angus Scrimm, Actor – age 89 (played the character of "The Tall Man" in the Phantasm horror movie series)
  • David Bowie, Musician – age 69
  • David Margulies, Actor – age 78 (played the mayor in the original Ghostbusters)
  • Alan Rickman, Actor – age 69 (seasoned actor of the stage and screen, perhaps best known for playing Hans Gruber in Die Hard and Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series)
  • Dan Haggerty, Actor – age 74 (starred in the title role of the 1970s television series The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams)
  • Glen Frey, Singer / Songwriter – age 67 (founding member of California country rock band The Eagles)
  • Abe Vigoda, Actor – age 94 (perennial character actor, famous for roles in The Godfather movie series, and Barney Miller television series)
  • Paul Kantner, Singer / Songwriter – age 74 (co-founding member of psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane)
  • Mike Minor, Actor – age 75 (best known for appearing on the television series Petticoat Junction)


  • Bob Elliot, Comedian – age 92 (part of famous comedy duo Bob and Ray, father to comedian Chris Elliot)
  • Maurice White, Musician / songwriter – age 74 (founder of the funk and R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire)
  • Joe Alaskey, Voice Actor – age 63 (trained under Mel Blanc and voiced many famous cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester, Tweety, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Pepé Le Pew, Marvin the Martian, Speedy Gonzales, and Taz)
  • George Gaynes, Actor – age 98 (most as Commandant Eric Lassard in the Police Academy movie series)
  • Vanity, Actress/Singer – age 57 (most known for her work with Prince)
  • Harper Lee, Novelist – age 89 (author of To Kill A Mockingbird)
  • Lennie Baker, Musician – age 69 (saxophone player in 1950s group Dany and The Juniors, as well as 1950s rock 'n' roll throwbacks Sha Na Na)
  • Tony Burton, Actor – age 78 (best known for his role as boxing trainer Duke in the Rocky movie series)
  • George Kennedy, Actor – age 91 (venerable character actor, appeared in films such as Cool Hand Luke, and the Naked Gun series)
  • Gil Hill, Police Commander/Actor – age 84 (most known in pop culture as the police chief in the Beverly Hills Cop movie series)


  • Nancy Reagan, First Lady of the U.S.(1981-1989) Husband, 40th President Ronald Reagan – age 94
  • Sir George Martin, Recording Engineer and Producer – age 90 (Worked with The Beatles on every single recording they ever made.)
  • Keith Emerson, Musician / keyboardist – age 71 (founding member of prog rock band Emerson, Lake, and Palmer)
  • Adrienne Corri, Actress – age 85 (cult movie actress, known for appearing in the films Doctor Zhivago, A Clockwork Orange, Vampire Circus, and Madhouse, to name just a few)
  • Frank Sinatra Jr., Singer– age 72 (son of legendary crooner Frank Sinatra)
  • Larry Drake, Actor – age 66 (character actor best known for his roles on television series L.A. Law and as the villain in the Darkman movie series)
  • Joe Santos, Actor – age 84 (best known for appearing in the 1970s television series The Rockford Files)
  • Phife Dawg, Singer – age 45 (founding member of Hip-Hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest)
  • Joe Garagiola, Baseball Player – age 90 (Catcher in the major leagues, then became a cult guest on many game shows of the 1960s and 1970s)
  • Ken Howard, Actor – age 71 (best known as the coach of a high school basketball team on the 1970s television show The White Shadow)
  • Garry Shandling, Comedian – age 66 (star of the groundbreaking television shows It's Gary Shandling's Show and The Larry Sanders Show)
  • James Noble, Actor – age 94 (best known for appearing as the governor on the 1979–86 sitcom Benson)


  • Merle Haggard, singer/songwriter – age 79 (country music legend)
  • Doris Roberts, Actress – age 90 (veteran character actor, most well-known for her role of Raymond's mother in the television series Everybody Loves Raymond)
  • Chyna, WWE wrestler – age 46
  • Prince, Musician – age 57
  • Madeleine Sherwood, Actress – age 94 (known for appearing in both the Broadway and film versions of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)
  • Billy Paul, Singer – age 81 (Grammy-winning soul singer and important figure in "The Sound of Philadelphia")


  • William Schallert, Actor – age 93 (veteran character actor who appeared in such television shows as Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Star Trek, The Patty Duke Show, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Hawaii Five-O, and Quincy, M.E., to name just a few)
  • Morley Safer, Journalist for CBS News for 52 years – age 84
  • Alan Young, Actor  – age 96 (most recognized as Wilbur from the cult classic television show Mr. Ed)
  • Burt Kwouk, Actor – age 85 (known for his role as Cato in the Pink Panther film series)
  • Patty Duke, Actress/Singer – age 69 (most known for her own television show The Patty Duke Show, but was also an accomplished singer)


  • Muhammad Ali, Professional Boxer – age 74 ("The Greatest of All Time!")
  • Gordie Howe, Hockey player for Detroit Red Wings – age 88
  • Michu Meszaros, Actor / Circus Performer – age 76 (played alien creature ALF in the hit 80s sitcom of the same name)
  • Ann Guilbert, Actress – age 87 (most known for her role of Millie Helper in 1960s sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show)
  • Ron Lester, Actor – age 45 (best known for his roles in the films Varsity Blues, Not Another Teen Movie, and Good Burger)
  • Anton Yelchin, Actor – age 27 (promising young actor who portrayed Chekov in the Star Trek film reboot series, died in tragic automobile accident)
  • Mack Rice, Singer/Songwriter – age 82 (most well-known for penning hit song "Mustang Sally")
  • Scotty Moore, Guitarist – age 84 (legendary guitarist for Elvis Presley)
  • Buddy Ryan, NFL Football Coach – age 85 (former Philadelphia Eagle coach)
  • Pat Summitt, NCAA Basketball Coach– age 64 (Over the course of her career, had 1,098 career wins, the most in NCAA basketball history)


  • Alan Vega, musician - age 78 (Formed punk noise pioneers, Suicide, during the first wave of NYC Punk in early 70s.)
  • Michael Cimino, Writer/Director – age 77 (screenwriter and director for such films as Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Deer Hunter, and Heaven's Gate)
  • Elie Wiesel, Jewish Writer/political activist – age 87 (author of 57 books, written mostly in French and English, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.)
  • Noel Neill, Actress  – age 95 (played Lois Lane in the film serials of Superman, as well as the 1950s television series Adventures of Superman)
  • Danny Smythe, Musician – age 67 (drummer and founding member of The Box Tops)
  • Garry Marshall, Writer/Producer/Actor – age 81 (created many memorable television series including Happy Days and Mork & Mindy, as well as directing many Hollywood films including The Flamingo Kid, Nothing In Common, Overboard, Beaches, and Pretty Woman, to name just a few)
  • Gloria DeHaven, Actress/Singer – age 91 (contract star Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studios in the 1940s and 1950s)


  • David Huddleston, Actor – age 85 (veteran character actor, best known for his portrayal of "The Big Lebowski" in The Big Lebowski)
  • Pete Fountain, Jazz Musician – age 86
  • Alexis Arquette, Actress – age 47 (part of the talented Arquette family of actors, transgender activist)
  • Kenny Baker, Actor – age 81 (the man who brought R2-D2 to life in the Star Wars films)
  • Fyvush Finkel, Actor – age 93 (veteran character actor, performing as a standup comic in the Catskill's Borscht Belt, won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1994 for his portrayal of Harvey Lipschultz, a crotchety history teacher, on the television series Boston Public.)
  • James Woolley, Musician – age 49 (keyboardist for industrial act Nine Inch Nails)
  • Jack Riley, Actor – age 80 (best known for his role on The Bob Newhart Show)
  • Marvin Kaplan, Actor – age 89 (comedic character actor known for roles on television show such as Alice, and in films such as The Nutty Professor and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World)
  • Gene Wilder, Actor – age 83 (legendary comedic actor known for such films as Young Frankenstein, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles, and The Producers)



  • Kevin Meaney, Comedian – age 60 (hilarious comedian and late-in-life Broadway star in Hairspray)
  • Pete Burns, Singer/Songwriter – age 57 (lead singer of 80s British synth pop band Dead or Alive)
  • Bobby Vee, Singer – age 73 (1960s teen idol, had thirty-eight Hot 100 chart hits, ten of which reached the Top 20)
  • Michiyo Yasuda, Japanese animator - age 77 (Spirited Away, Grave of the Fireflies, Princess Mononoke)
  • Ted V. Mikels, American filmmaker - age 87 (b-movie maven of such fils as Girl in Gold Boots, The Astro-Zombies, The Doll Squad)
  • Steve Dillon, artist - age 54 (comic book artist for Preacher, The Punisher, Judge Dredd)
  • John Zacherle, actor - age 98 (television and radio personality, as well as voice actor; best known for his long career as horror host of Chiller Theatre.)


  • Kay Starr, Singer – age 94 (pop and jazz singer who enjoyed considerable success in the 1940s and 1950s. She is best remembered for introducing two songs that became #1 hits in the 1950s, "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Rock And Roll Waltz".)
  • Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States 1993-2001 – age 78
  • Leonard Cohen, Poet / Songwriter – age 82
  • Robert Vaughn, Actor – age 83 (best known for starring in the espionage television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., as well as appearing in such classic films as The Magnificent Seven and Bullitt)
  • Leon Russell, Musician / Songwriter – age 74 (Amazing pianist and composer. Besides his own catalog of songs, also recorded and performed with the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ike & Tina Turner, Rolling Stones, and Elton John, to name just a few.)
  • Gwen Ifill, Journalist  for “Washington Week” and “PBS NewsHour” on PBS – age 61
  • Sharon Jones, American soul and funk singer – age 60 (the very definition of "never give up on your dreams", as Ms. Jones didn't "make it" in the music biz until she released her first record at the age of 40.)
  • Florence Henderson, Actress / Singer – age 82 (most famous for playing the role of Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch)
  • Fidel Castro, Dictator – Prime Minister then President of Cuba from 1959-2008 – age 90
  • Ron Glass, Actor – age 71 (most well known for role as literary Det. Ron Harris in the television sitcom Barney Miller, as well as Shepherd Derrial Book in Firefly and Serenity.)
  • Fritz Weaver, Actor – age 90 (veteran character actor, appearing in films Creepshow, Fail Safe, and Black Sunday, as well as many episodes of The Twilight Zone)
  • Van Williams, Actor – age 82 (best known for portraying superhero detective The Green Hornet on the 60s television show of the same name.)
  • Jim Delligatti, McDonald’s franchisee / created The Big Mac – age 98


  • Don Calfa, Actor – age 76 (character actor who appeared in 80s cult films Weekend at Bernie's and Return of the Living Dead)
  • Greg Lake, Musician  – age 69 (bassist and founding member of prog rock bands King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
  • John Glenn, WWII & Korean War Fighter Pilot. Marine Colonel. NASA Astronaut. Senator from Ohio (1974-99) – age 95
  • Alan Thicke, Actor – age 69 (best known for playing the Dr. Jason Seaver on the 80s sitcom Growing Pains, but was also a prolific theme song composer for game shows and sitcoms including The Wizard of Odds, The Joker's Wild, Celebrity Sweepstakes, Wheel of Fortune, Diff'rent Strokes, and The Facts of Life.)
  • Bernard Fox, Actor – age 89 (best remembered for his roles as Dr. Bombay in the comedy fantasy series Bewitched)
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hungarian Actress and Socialite – age 99 (perhaps the first and foremost person "famous for being famous")
  • Richard Adams, Author – age 96 (best known for the classic anthropomorphized adventure tale Watership Down)
  • George Michael, Singer/Songwriter – age 53
  • George S. Irving,  Actor – age 94 (best known as the voice of Heat Miser in the Rankin-Bass holiday classic The Year Without A Santa Claus)
  • Carrie Fisher, Actress – age 60 (best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movie series)
  • Debbie Reynolds, Actress – age 84 (legendary singing and dancing movie star, best known for her role in Singin' In The Rain, and mother to Carrie Fisher)

*This is probably not a full list, so any and all potential omissions or corrections are welcome in the comments...

R.I.P. 2016

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