In Memoriam — From Toni Morrison and Jessye Norman to Valerie Harper and Doris Day, notable celebrity deaths in 2019
Luke Perry, Leon Redbone, Peter Mayhew, Georgia Engels are among the host of entertainers who passed away in 2019.
Their work in movies and on stage made us laugh and cry. Their music touched our hearts and souls. Their poetry and literature helped shape our humanity.
Here’a look back at some of the celebrities who passed away in 2019:
Tony Award-winning composer Jerry Herman, who wrote the cheerful, good-natured music and lyrics for such classic shows as “Mame,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “La Cage aux Folles,” died Dec. 26 at the age of 88. The creator of 10 Broadway shows and contributor to several more, Herman won two Tony Awards for best musical: “Hello, Dolly!” in 1964 and “La Cage aux Folles” in 1983. He also won two Grammys — for the “Mame” cast album and “Hello, Dolly!” as song of the year — and was a Kennedy Center honoree. He had three original Broadway productions playing at the same time from February 1969 to May 1969.
Lee Mendelson, the producer who changed the face of the holidays when he brought “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to television in 1965 and wrote the lyrics to its signature song, “Christmas Time Is Here,” died on Christmas Day. Mendelson, who won a dozen Emmys in his long career, died at his home in Hillsborough, California, of congestive heart failure at age 86 after a long struggle with lung cancer, son Jason Mendelson told The Associated Press.
Allee Willis, a Detroit native and award-winning songwriter who had long traced her inspiration back to Motown, died Dec. 24 at 72 from cardiac arrest. She was known for writing Earth, Wind & Fire hits, including ”September,” and later the “Friends” theme song, “I’ll Be There For You,” performed by The Rembrandts.
French fashion designer Emanuel Ungaro, seen here with his De d’Or (Golden Thimble) award in 1980, died Dec. 21 in Paris at age 86. Ungaro, who brought rich color and sensual draping to French fashion, was beloved by Jackie Kennedy and Catherine Deneuve.
Actor Chuy Bravo, best known for his role on “Chelsea Lately,” died Dec. 14 in Mexico City at age 63. Bravo — whose given name was Jesus Melgoza Bravo — appeared as Chelsea Handler’s sidekick on the E! talk show from 2007-14. He also appeared in the 2005 movie “The Honeymooners” and in 2007’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”
Oscar-nominated actor Danny Aiello, the blue-collar character actor whose long career playing tough guys included roles in “Fort Apache, the Bronx,” “Moonstruck” and “Once Upon a Time in America” and his Oscar-nominated performance as a pizza man in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” died Dec. 12 after a brief illness. He was 86. The ebullient Aiello became a favorite of several directors, among them Woody Allen, who used him in the Broadway play “The Floating Light Globe” and the movies “Broadway Danny Rose,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and “Radio Days.”
Philip McKeon, the former child star who was best known for playing wisecracking teen Tommy Hyatt on TV show “Alice” from 1976-85, died in Texas on Dec. 10 after a battling a long illness. He was 55. After “Alice,” McKeon had several other acting and producing roles and worked in radio in both Los Angeles and Texas. McKeon is the brother of ”The Facts of Life” actress Nancy McKeon.
Singer Marie Fredriksson died Dec. 9 at 61 after a 17-year-long battle with cancer. Following a solo career, Fredriksson teamed up with Per Gessle in 1986 to form the pop duo Roxette. They achieved international success with their albums “Look Sharp!” in 1988 and “Joyride” in 1991. The pair sold 80 million records worldwide.
René Auberjonois, a prolific actor best known for his roles on the television shows “Benson” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and his part in the 1970 film “M.A.S.H.” playing Father Mulcahy, died Dec. 8 at age 79 of metastatic lung cancer. For sitcom watchers of the 1980s, Auberjonois was Clayton Runnymede Endicott III, the hopelessly highbrow chief of staff at a governor’s mansion on “Benson.” And for sci-fi fans, he was Odo, the shape-shifting Changeling and head of space-station security on “Deep Space Nine.” Auberjonois’ final role was 2019’s “First Cow.”
Caroll Spinney, the longtime “Sesame Street” puppeteer who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, died Dec. 8 at 85. Spinney joined the children’s television show when it began in 1969 and remained part of the “Sesame” team for five decades. Spinney, who had been diagnosed with dystonia, a movement disorder that causes uncontrollable muscle contractions, announced his retirement in 2018. “Before I came to ‘Sesame Street,’ I didn’t feel like what I was doing was very important,” Spinney said in a statement at the time. “Big Bird helped me find my purpose.”
Rising rapper Juice WRLD (born Jarad Anthony Higgins) died Dec. 8 after suffering cardiac arrest at Chicago Midway International Airport, less than a week after his 21st birthday. The Chicago native broke through with his 2018 single “Lucid Dreams,” which peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and his second studio album, “Death Race for Love,” debuted in March and reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Ron Leibman, who starred in films such as “Norma Rae,” “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Where’s Poppa?” — and played Rachel Greene’s nasty father on TV’s ”Friends” — died at 82. He worked steadily in films, including as the charismatic labor organizer Reuben in 1979’s “Norma Rae,” starring alongside Oscar-winner Sally Field as the title character.
Shelley Morrison, an actress with a 50-year career who was best known for playing memorable maid Rosario Salazar on “Will & Grace,” died from heart failure Dec. 1. She was 83. Morrison also was known for her role as Sister Sixto on “The Flying Nun” in the late 1960s. She had dozens of television appearances and was in a number of films.
Composer Irving Burgie, who helped popularize Caribbean music and co-wrote the enduring Harry Belafonte hit “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” died Nov. 29 at the age of 95. According to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Burgie’s songs have sold over 100 million records throughout the world.
British theater director and presenter Jonathan Miller, the star of the “Beyond the Fringe” comedy revue, died Nov. 27 at age 85 from Alzheimer’s disease. One of the U.K.’s most important figures in the arts, Miller enjoyed a decades-long career that encompassed theater, television and opera.
South Korean K-pop star Goo Hara, 28, who shot to fame as a member of the girl group Kara, was found dead Nov. 24 at her home in Seoul. After her time in Kara, the singer went on to a solo and acting career.
Restaurateur Harry Morton was found dead at his home on Nov. 23 at 38. Best known for founding Mexican restaurant and food truck company Pink Taco, Morton came from a famous hospitality industry family: His father, Peter, co-founded the Hard Rock Cafe in 1971 and owned and operated the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Vegas until 2006. His grandfather, Chicagoan Arnie Morton, co-founded the Morton’s Steakhouse chain in 1978.
Actor Michael J. Pollard, known for his performances in “Bonnie and Clyde,” and “House of 1000 Corpses” died Nov. 20 at age 80 of cardiac arrest, according to the Washington Post. Pollard’s other film credits include “Little Fauss and Big Halsy (1970), “Melvin and Howard” (1980), “Roxanne” (1987), “Tango and Cash” (1989) and “Dick Tracy” (1990).
Photographer Robert Freeman, who helped define the image of The Beatles with some of the band’s best-known album covers, died Nov. 8 at age 82. Freeman began his career as a photojournalist for London’s Sunday Times before working with The Beatles. He shot the black-and-white cover for the 1963 album “With The Beatles,” as well as the covers of “Beatles for Sale,” ″Help!” and “Rubber Soul.”
Louisiana-born author Ernest Gaines died Nov. 5 at age 86. Gaines was best known for “A Lesson Before Dying” and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” both of which were later adapted into films. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and won the National Book Critics Circle Award for “A Lesson Before Dying.”
Robert Norris, a rancher known for his role as an original Marlboro Man, died Nov. 3 at his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at 90. Norris’ son, Bobby, told USA TODAY Phillip Morris was filming commercials at their ranch when they realized Norris fit the role better than the models they had hired. Norris was never a smoker, and abandoned the campaign after deciding he was setting a bad example for his own children.
Character actor Brian Tarantina died Nov. 2 at age 60. Tarantina was best known as Bootsy on “Gilmore Girls” and Jackie on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” He also appeared on Broadway and in films, and had an extensive list of guest appearances on popular TV series.
Walter Mercado, an iconic astrologer and television personality, died on Nov. 2. He was 87. Mercado worked briefly for TV stations in Puerto Rico before moving to South Florida, where he gained fame for his daily horoscope segment on Spanish-language TV, delivered with an exaggerated trill. He favored long, colorful brocades and huge gemstone rings. His catchphrase to his audience: “Mucho, mucho amor.”
Actor-comedian John Witherspoon, who memorably played Ice Cube’s father in the “Friday” films, died Oct. 29 at 77. No cause of death was released. The actor had a prolific career, co-starring in three “Friday” films, appearing on “The Wayans Bros.” television series and voicing the grandfather in “The Boondocks” animated series. His film roles included “Vampire in Brooklyn” and “Boomerang,” and he was a frequent guest on “Late Show with David Letterman.”
Robert Evans, the producer of “Chinatown” who helped shepherd films including “The Godfather” and “Harold and Maude” to the screen as chief of Paramount Pictures, died on Oct. 26 at 89. After acting roles faded, Evans re-emerged as head of production at Paramount Pictures and quickly converted the studio from a maker of mediocre films to the biggest hit machine in Hollywood.
Bill Macy, who acted alongside Bea Arthur in the sitcom “Maude,” died Oct. 17 at age 97. Macy played Walter Findlay, husband to Arthur’s character Maude Findlay, in the “All in the Family” spin-off series, which ran from 1972 to 1978. He had a number of film credits and made dozens of guest appearances in series including “Seinfeld,” ″How I Met Your Mother” and “ER.”
Actor John Clarke, who embodied Mickey Horton on “Days of Our Lives” for nearly 40 years, died Oct. 16 from complications of pneumonia. He was 88. Clarke, an Emmy nominee for best daytime actor, received the Daytime Emmys Lifetime Achievement Award.
South Korean pop star and actress Sulli was found dead at her home south of Seoul on Oct. 14. Her cause of death is being investigated. The 25-year-old, whose legal name was Choi Jin-ri, began her singing career in 2009 as a member of the girl band “f(x)” and also acted in numerous television dramas and movies. She was known for her feminist voice and outspokenness that was rare among female entertainers in deeply conservative South Korea.
Larry Junstrom, an original member of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd and the longtime bassist for .38 Special, died Oct. 6. He was 70. Junstrom left Lynyrd Skynyrd before the band recorded their 1973 debut album. The bassist went on to join .38 Special in 1977, and performed with the group for nearly four decades.
Rip Taylor, the campy, confetti-covered comedian and king of 1970s game shows, died Oct. 6 at age 84 in Beverly Hills, California. As a guest star, he made more than 2,000 TV appearances, including on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Monkees,” and appeared in “Wayne’s World 2” and the “Jackass” movies as himself. On Broadway, he had roles in “Sugar Babies” and touring productions of “Oliver!” and “Peter Pan” (as Captain Hook).
Ginger Baker, the volatile and propulsive British musician who was best known for his time with the power trio Cream, died Oct. 6 at age 80. Baker wielded his blues power and jazz technique to help break open popular music and become one of the world’s most admired and feared musicians. Rolling Stone magazine once ranked him the third-greatest rock drummer of all time.
History-making actress and singer Diahann Carroll died Oct. 4 after battling cancer. Carroll, who received an Oscar nod for her portrayal of the title character in 1974’s “Claudine,” was also the first black female to star in a middle-class role in a TV series for her work on “Julia.”
Jessye Norman, the renowned international opera star whose passionate soprano voice won her four Grammy Awards and the National Medal of Arts, died Sept. 30 at 74. A statement said Norman died from septic shock and multi-organ failure secondary to complications of a spinal cord injury she sustained in 2015.
José José, the Mexican crooner beloved as the “Prince of Song,” has died at 71 from pancreatic cancer; his death was announced Sept. 28. José (born José Rómulo Sosa Ortiz) hit the Latin charts in the ‘70s with pensive love ballads like “El Triste” (“The Sad Man”) and “Amar y querer” (“Love and Want”), and was celebrated for his wide register and ability to sing technically difficult tunes.
Robert Hunter, the man behind the poetic and mystical words for many of the Grateful Dead’s finest songs, died Sept. 23 at age 78. Although proficient on a number of instruments including guitar, violin, cello and trumpet, Hunter never appeared on stage with the band. Hunter’s songs included such classics as “Truckin’,” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Box of Rain” and “Ripple.”
Food Network star Carl Ruiz died Sept. 21. Ruiz, 44, an executive chef at La Cubana in New York, appeared on both “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “Guy’s Ranch Kitchen” on the network. He won “Guy’s Grocery Games” and also served as a celebrity judge.
Journalist Cokie Roberts died Sept. 17 at the age of 75, following a battle with breast cancer. ”We will miss Cokie beyond measure, both for her contributions and for her love and kindness,” her family said in a statement. “Cokie is perhaps the only reporter to have filed for ‘Morning Edition,’ ‘All Things Considered,’ ‘World News Tonight’ and ‘Nightline’ all in a single day,” remarked ABC News President James Goldston.
Phyllis Newman, a Tony-award winning Broadway veteran who became the first woman to host “The Tonight Show” before turning her attention to fight for women’s health, died Sept. 15. She was 86. Newman won a Tony in 1962 for “Subways Are for Sleeping.” In later years she founded the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative of the Actor’s Fund.
Ric Ocasek, frontman and lead singer for new-wave icons The Cars, was found dead Sept. 19 at his home in New York. He was 75. The band, famed for hits like “Drive” and “Just What I Needed,” broke through in 1978 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Ocasek was married to supermodel Paulina Porizkova for almost 30 years.
Eddie Money, the beloved rocker known for hits including “Take Me Home Tonight” and “Two Tickets to Paradise,” died Sept. 13 in Los Angeles at age 70. Money, whose given name was Edward Joseph Mahoney, announced in August that he was battling stage 4 esophageal cancer.
Robert Frank, a giant of 20th century photography whose seminal book “The Americans” captured singular, candid moments of the 1950s and helped free picture-taking from the boundaries of clean lighting and linear composition, died Sept. 9. He was 94.
John Wesley, best known for playing Dr. Hoover on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” died Sept. 8 from cancer at age 72. Wesley had more than 100 acting credits to his name, including the TV series “Martin” and “Dirty Dancing,” and films “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” and “Hang Em High.”
Expressionist painter Francisco Toledo, who was well-known and respected in Mexico both for his art and his activism, died Sept. 5 at age 79. Toledo’s enigmatic paintings and sculptures were marked by the animals, colors and traditions of Oaxaca. Insects, cats, and other animals were presented in almost mythological contexts.
Jimmy Johnson, a founder of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and guitarist with the famed studio musicians The Swampers, died Sept. 5 at age 76. As a studio musician, recording engineer and record producer, Johnson played a role in iconic hits by Percy Sledge, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd and others. Muscle Shoals became a recording destination for well-known artists.
LaShawn Daniels, a Grammy-winning songwriter who penned hits for the likes of Beyoncé, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, died in a car crash Sept. 4 at age 41. Daniels earned a Grammy Award for best R&B song in 2001 for Destiny’s Child’s hit single ”Say My Name.”
Carol Lynley, who starred in the 1965 thriller “Bunny Lake is Missing” and as the SS Poseidon ship singer in the 1972 action adventure “The Poseidon Adventure,” died Sept. 3 at 77 after suffering a heart attack, Variety reports.
Valerie Harper, star of the iconic sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its spinoff “Rhoda,” died on Aug. 30, just eight days after her 80th birthday, following a battle with cancer. As zany/spunky, man-crazy, independent/single girl and upstairs neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern, she collected four Emmys and a Golden Globe.
Renowned racer Jessi Combs, who hosted “MythBusters” and “Overhaulin,’ “ died Aug. 27 in a jet-car crash while attempting to break a land-speed record in Oregon. She was 39. Combs held the title for fastest woman on four wheels, reaching 398 mph in 2013.
Peter Fonda, the actor son of movie titan Henry Fonda and brother to Jane Fonda, died in Los Angeles on Aug. 16 of respiratory failure from lung cancer, his family announced. He was 79. Fonda was best known for 1969’s groundbreaking counterculture classic “Easy Rider.”
Toni Morrison, the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, died Aug. 5 at age 88. Her prize-winning and best-selling books, including “Beloved,” “Song of Solomon,” and “The Bluest Eye,” gave expression to formerly unspoken truths of black life in America, past and present. Morrison may be best remembered as a literary genius who wrote about black people for other black people, yet her work had universal appeal.
Henri Belolo, who co-founded Village People and co-wrote their classic hits “Y.M.C.A.,” ‘’Macho Man” and “In the Navy,” died Aug. 3. He was 82.
Harold Prince, the daring producer and director who earned a record 21 Tony Awards and helped shape much of the significant musical theater in the second half of the 20th century, died July 31, 2019, at the age of 91. He helped create some of Broadway’s most enduring musical hits, first as a producer of such shows as “The Pajama Game,” ‘’Damn Yankees,” ‘’West Side Story,” ‘’A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” He later became a director, overseeing such landmark musicals as “Cabaret,” ‘’Company,” ‘’Follies,” ‘’Sweeney Todd,” ‘’Evita” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Rutger Hauer, whose murderous replicant Roy Batty famously fought Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard in 1982’s “Blade Runner,” died July 19 at home in the Netherlands. The Dutch actor, 75, also had memorable roles as the ex-CEO of Wayne Enterprises in 2005’s “Batman Begins” and the vampire master Lothos in 1992’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” movie.
David Hedison, best known for starring in two James Bond movies, died July 18 at age 92. Hedison starred as CIA operative Felix Leiter in 1973’s “Live and Let Die” opposite Roger Moore, and then returned to the role in 1989 with Timothy Dalton as James Bond in “License to Kill.” He also played scientist Andre Delambre, who turned into an insect in the 1958 film “The Fly.”
Art Neville, a member of one of New Orleans’ storied musical families, the Neville Brothers, and a founding member of the groundbreaking funk band The Meters, died July 22 at age 81.
Actor Rip Torn, an Emmy winner and Oscar nominee who had an esteemed, decades-long acting career in theater, film and television, died at his Connecticut home on July 9. He was 88. Torn was best known for playing late-night talk show producer Arthur on HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show” in the 1990s.
Disney Channel actor Cameron Boyce, who starred in “Jessie” and the “Descendants” franchise, died July 6 at age 20. The young actor, who appeared in a variety of films and TV shows, including opposite Adam Sandler in the movie “Grown Ups,” suffered a seizure related to an ongoing medical condition, his family said.
Comedic actor Arte Johnson, who won an Emmy for “Laugh-In,” died July 3 at age 90. A family representative says he had heart failure after a three-year battle with bladder and prostate cancer.
Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Dave Bartholomew, who co-wrote and produced such Fats Domino classics as “Ain’t That a Shame” and “I’m Walkin’,” died June 23 in New Orleans. Bartholomew, a bandleader and trumpet player who had been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, was 100.
Gloria Vanderbilt died at age 95, son Anderson Cooper confirmed in an on-air CNN obituary June 17. An artist, author, actress, fashion model and designer, Vanderbilt was a woman famed from birth as the last of a Gilded Age clan of millionaires.
Sylvia Miles, whose brief appearances in the films “Midnight Cowboy” and “Farewell, My Lovely” earned her two Academy Award nominations, died in a New York ambulance on June 12. Accounts of her age vary widely, from 86 to 94.
Dr. John, aka Mac Rebennack, the New Orleans legend with the gruff voice whose music was steeped in blues, R&B, rock, funk and boogie woogie, died June 6 after suffering a heart attack. The six-time Grammy winner was 77.
Dennis Day, one of Disney’s original Mouseketeers in the 1950s, has died, police confirmed on June 6. Day, 76, who disappeared 11 months ago, was found dead in April at his home in Oregon.
Acclaimed singer and guitarist Leon Redbone, who performed jazz, ragtime and Tin Pan Alley-style songs, died May 30. He was enigmatic to the end. The statement announcing his death said: “Leon Redbone crossed the delta for that beautiful shore at the age of 127. He departed our world with his guitar, his trusty companion Rover, and a simple tip of his hat.”
Sammy Shore, the actor and stand-up comedian who co-founded the Comedy Store, died May 18 at age 92. He was the father of actor/comedian Pauly Shore and had a career that spanned nearly seven decades.
Tim Conway, the deadpan comic who cracked up viewers and castmates on “The Carol Burnett Show,” died May 14 at age 85. The star won six Emmy Awards for his work on “Burnett” and guest appearances on “Coach” and “30 Rock.” Conway also had a modest but steady movie career, appearing in such films as “The Apple Dumpling Gang” (1975), “The Shaggy D.A.” (1976), “Cannonball Run II” (1984), “Dear God” (1996) and “Air Bud 2” (1998).
Legendary singer and actress Doris Day died May 13 at age 97 after a serious case of pneumonia. With her lilting contralto, wholesome blonde beauty and glowing smile, she was a top box office draw and recording artist known for such films as “Pillow Talk” and “That Touch of Mink” and for such songs as the classic 1956 tune “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” from the Alfred Hitchcock film “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”
Peggy Lipton starred in TV’s “The Mod Squad” and “Twin Peaks.” She married music producer Quincy Jones, and had two daughters, Kidada Jones and Rashida Jones (star of TV’s “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation”). Lipton, who battled cancer, died May 11 at 72.
Jim Fowler, a naturalist who rose to fame on the long-running television program “Wild Kingdom” and who famously bantered with Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show,” died May 8 at age 89. Fowler had his arm swallowed by an anaconda and was charged by a gorilla and other creatures, and he became an internationally recognized authority on predatory birds.
Peter Mayhew, the 7-foot-plus, British-born actor beloved for playing Chewbacca in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, died April 30. He was 74. The fan favorite, whose Twitter handle was “TheWookieeRoars” in honor of his character, played Han Solo’s best friend up through 2015’s “The Force Awakens.”
John Singleton, the Oscar-nominated director and screenwriter behind films like “Boyz N the Hood” and “Poetic Justice,” died April 29, after being taken off life support following a stroke, his family shared in a statement. He was 51. Singleton was in his early 20s, just out of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, when he wrote, directed and produced “Boyz N the Hood.” Based on Singleton’s upbringing and shot in his old neighborhood, the low-budget production starred Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube and centered on three friends in South Central Los Angeles, where college aspirations competed with the pressures of gang life.
Ken Kercheval, who played Cliff Barnes, longtime rival to J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) on “Dallas,” died April 21, 2019, in his Indiana hometown, according to a local funeral home. He was 83.
Georgia Engel, best known for her role as soft-voiced Georgette Franklin on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” died April 12 at age 70. Engel played the sweet, ever-so-innocent girlfriend and later wife of self-important TV anchor Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) on “Moore,” and later appeared on ”Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Coach,” the soap “Passions,” and, more recently, in “Hot in Cleveland.”
Character actor Seymour Cassel, a pillar of independent film, died April 7 at 84 following complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Cassel made his film debut in John Cassavetes’ 1958 feature “Shadows.” Later in life, he worked with Wes Anderson on ”Rushmore,” “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” and “The Royal Tennebaums.”
Rapper Nipsey Hussle, a Los Angeles fixture known for his community involvement and dedication to West Coast hip-hop, was shot to death March 31. Hussle (born Ermias Asghedom), 33, broke into the rap scene with his mixtapes and went on to collaborate with hip-hop stars including Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino and Snoop Dogg. He released successful mixtapes and earned a Grammy nomination for best rap album for his 2018 major-label debut album, “Victory Lap.” Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” won the award in February.
Andre Williams, the Detroit singer whose edgy R&B songs made him a cult favorite in the 1950s and propelled a late-life career resurgence, died March 17 in Chicago. He was 82. During his lengthy career, Williams wore many hats — recording artist, stage performer, producer, songwriter, author. He was a colorful character with the nickname “Mr. Rhythm.” Williams was successful as a songwriter for others, mostly notably the much-covered R&B staple ”Shake a Tail Feather.”
Luke Perry, the beloved “Beverly Hills, 90210” breakout for his role as “Dylan McKay,” died March 4, days after suffering a massive stroke. The actor, 52, most recently starred in TV’s “Riverdale,” playing Fred Andrews, dad of comic-book character Archie Andrews.
Keith Flint, the snarly-voiced, pointy-haired frontman of electronic dance band The Prodigy, was found dead March 4 at his home near London, bandmate Liam Howlett confirmed via Instagram. He was 49.
Nathaniel Taylor, the actor best known as Rollo Lawson, the street-smart best friend of the son on the 1970s sitcom “Sanford and Son,” has died at age 80. Taylor died Feb. 27 at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles after a heart attack. Taylor’s character, Rollo, was the sidekick to Lamont Sanford, played by actor Demond Wilson, and often drew the skepticism of TV patriarch Fred Sanford.
Andre Previn, the pianist, composer and conductor whose broad reach took in the worlds of Hollywood, jazz and classical music, always rejecting suggestions that his bop ‘n’ blues moonlighting lessened his stature, died Feb. 28. He was 89. Previn was a child prodigy whose family fled Nazi Germany. He was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won four. Besides “My Fair Lady,” his Oscar-winning orchestrations included “Gigi” (1958), “Porgy and Bess” (1959) and “Irma La Douce” (1963).
Actress Katherine Helmond, best known for her work in “Who’s the Boss?” and “Soap,” died Feb. 23 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. She was 89. Helmond played mother Mona Robinson on the ABC sitcom “Who’s the Boss?,” which ran from 1984 to 1992. From 1977 to 1981, she played Jessica Tate on the soap-opera spoof series “Soap.” She won Golden Globe awards in 1981 and 1989 for her roles on both shows.
Beverley Owen, the actress best known for originating the character Marilyn on the sitcom ”The Munsters,” died of ovarian cancer on Feb. 21 at age 81. The Iowa native appeared on 13 episodes of the beloved 1960s comedy, which centered on a sweet family of lovable monsters, including versions of Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula and the Wolfman — or, in that case, Wolfboy. She left the show to marry writer and producer Jon Stone.
Director Stanley Donen, a giant of the Hollywood musical who through such classics as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Funny Face” helped give us some of the most joyous sounds and images in movie history, died Feb. 21 of heart failure. He was 94. Donen was behind such unforgettable scenes as Gene Kelly dancing with an animated Jerry the mouse in “Anchors Aweigh,” Fred Astaire’s gravity-defying spin across the ceiling in “Royal Wedding,” and, the all-time triumph, Kelly ecstatically splashing about as he performs the title number in “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Peter Tork, bassist and singer for 1960s rock band the Monkees, died on Feb. 21 at age 77. Tork’s Monkees bandmate Micky Dolenz confirmed Tork’s death on Twitter, writing that he was “heartbroken” over the news. Along with Dolenz, Davy Jones and Michael Nesmith, Tork was a founding member of the pop group that was formed for the television sitcom of the same name. With hits including “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer” and “Daydream Believer,” the Monkees were one of the highest-charting acts of the late ‘60s.
German-born fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld died Feb. 19 in Paris. Known for his trademark white ponytail, starched collar, sunglasses and fingerless gloves – not to mention his controversial remarks – he oversaw iconic houses like Chanel and Fendi.
Jan-Michael Vincent, star of the hit series “Airwolf” and ‘80s hunk, died Feb. 10 in Asheville, N.C. He was 73. Vincent acted in a number of feature films, sharing the screen with the likes of John Wayne, Rock Hudson, and Charles Bronson, and appeared in episodes of iconic shows “Lassie,” “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke.” He made headlines as the highest-paid American television actor, receiving $200,000 an episode during the filming of “Airwolf.”
British actor Albert Finney, the Academy Award-nominated star of films from “Tom Jones” to “Skyfall,” died Feb. 7 at the age of 82, here in a scene from ”A Man of No Importance.” Finney was nominated five times for Oscars, for “Tom Jones,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” ″The Dresser,” ″Under the Volcano” and “Erin Brockovich,” though he never won. In later years he brought authority to big-budget and high-grossing action movies, including the James Bond thriller “Skyfall” and two of the Bourne films. He also won hearts as Daddy Warbucks in “Annie.”
James Ingram, the Grammy-winning singer who launched multiple hits on the R&B and pop charts and earned two Oscar nominations for his songwriting, died Jan. 29. Ingram, shown in a May 2011 photo, was 66. Nominated 14 times for a Grammy Award, Ingram won the coveted honor for the 1983 hit “Yah Mo B There,” a duet with Michael McDonald, and his solo effort, “One Hundred Ways,” in 1981. Other hits included “I Don’t Have the Heart” and the duets “Baby Come To Me” and “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” with Patti Austin (featured in the film “Best Friends”), and “Somewhere Out There” with Linda Ronstadt (the theme song for the animated film “An American Tail”).
Comedian and writer Kevin Barnett, who co-created the Fox series “Rel,” died Jan. 22 at the age of 32. His cause of death is not yet confirmed. Barnett created the TV series “Rel” along with “Get Out” star Lil Rel Howery and Josh Rabinowitz. It debuted on Fox in September 2018. His other works include the Fox series “Unhitched” and TruTV’s sketch comedy series “Friends of the People.”
Kaye Ballard, a decorated Broadway veteran and actress who appeared in “The Mothers-In-Law” and “The Doris Day Show,” died Jan. 21 night at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, at 93. Her list of theatrical credits in New York and around the country include “Carnival,” “Gypsie,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Sheba,” “High Spirits,” a female version of “The Odd Couple,” “Funny Girl,” “Chicago,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Look Ma, I’m Dancin’,” “Minnie’s Boys,” and “Over the River and Through the Woods.”
Actress Carol Channing, whose career spanned decades on Broadway and on television, died on Jan. 15. She was 97. Publicist B. Harlan Boll says Channing died of natural causes.
Verna Bloom, who played debauched wife Marion Wormer in “Animal House” and later portrayed Jesus’ mother in “The Last Temptation of Christ,” died Jan. 9. The actress, who was 80, suffered from complications of dementia.
Bob Einstein, a comedian, actor and two-time Emmy winner, died Jan. 2. He was 76. Einstein was probably best known to fans as Marty Funkhouser on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” He also played the character Super Dave Osborne, a smug but hapless stuntman who appeared often on “Late Night With David Letterman” and starred on several series of his own. His brother is actor/comedian Albert Brooks.
Daryl Dragon, the Captain half of ‘70s pop sensations Captain & Tennille, died of renal failure Jan. 2. He was 76. Dragon and then-wife Toni Tennille topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1975 with a debut single that became the biggest-selling record of the year, “Love Will Keep Us Together.”
Contributing: Associated Press