In Memoriam: Charlie Watts, Betty White, Norm Macdonald, Mary Wilson, Stephen Sondheim among the celebrities we lost in 2021
Here’s a look at some of the celebrities, including Chicago luminaries, who died in 2021.
From musicians, actors, artists and authors to directors, singers, choreographers and pop culture icons, they are among the celebrities whom we lost in 2021.
You can read their full obituaries at the links provided.
Gerry Marsden, 78. The lead singer of the 1960s British group Gerry and the Pacemakers that had such hits as “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and the song that became the anthem of Liverpool Football Club, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Jan. 2. Heart infection.
Eric Jerome Dickey, 59. The bestselling novelist who blended crime, romance and eroticism in ”Sister, Sister,” “Waking With Enemies” and dozens of other stories about contemporary Black life. Jan. 3. Cancer.
Tanya Roberts, 65. She captivated James Bond in ”A View to a Kill” and appeared in the action series “Charlie’s Angels” and the sitcom “That ‘70s Show.” Jan. 4.
Siegfried Fischbacher, 81. He was the surviving member of the magic duo Siegfried & Roy who entertained millions with illusions using exotic animals. Jan. 13. Pancreatic cancer.
Phil Spector, 81. The eccentric and revolutionary music producer who transformed rock music with his “Wall of Sound” method and who later was convicted of murder. Jan. 16.
Jim Tilmon, 86. Beside being an Emmy-winning broadcaster who worked for WMAQ-TV and WTTW-TV, he was one of the nation’s first Black commercial airline pilots, flying for American Airlines. Jan. 16.
Bob Avian, 83. The Tony Award-winning choreographer rose from a dancer in “West Side Story” and “Funny Girl” to work alongside such theater luminaries as Michael Bennett, Cameron Macintosh, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Jan. 21. Cardiac arrest.
Larry King, 87. The suspenders-sporting everyman whose broadcast interviews with world leaders, movie stars and ordinary people helped define American conversation for a half-century. Jan. 23.
Walter Bernstein, 101. The screenwriter was among the last survivors of Hollywood’s anti-Communist blacklist, and his Oscar-nominated script for “The Front” drew upon his years of being unable to work under his own name. Jan. 23.
Hal Holbrook, 95. The critically acclaimed actor’s long-running career spanned film, television and stage, though he is perhaps best known for his role as author Mark Twain, which he began workshopping as a college student and would go on to develop the one-man show “Mark Twain Tonight,” in which he toured for more than 50 years. Jan. 23.
Cloris Leachman, 94. An Oscar winner for her portrayal of a lonely housewife in ”The Last Picture Show” and a comedic delight as the fearsome Frau Blücher in ”Young Frankenstein” and self-absorbed neighbor Phyllis on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Jan. 27.
Cicely Tyson, 96. The pioneering Black actor who gained an Oscar nomination for her role as the sharecropper’s wife in ”Sounder,” won a Tony Award in 2013 at age 88 and touched TV viewers’ hearts in ”The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” Jan. 28.
Hilton Valentine, 77. He was the founding guitarist of the English rock and roll band The Animals who is credited with coming up with one of the most famous opening riffs of the 1960s in ”The House of the Rising Sun.” Jan. 29.
Sophie, 34. A Grammy-nominated Scottish disc jockey, producer and recording artist who had worked with the likes of Madonna and Charli XCX. Jan. 30. Accidental fall.
Dustin Diamond, 44. An actor best known for playing Screech on the hit ‘90s sitcom “Saved by the Bell.” Feb. 1. Cancer.
Jim Weatherly, 77. The Hall of Fame songwriter who wrote “Midnight Train to Georgia” and other hits for Gladys Knight, Glen Campbell and Ray Price. Feb. 3.
Christopher Plummer, 91. The dashing, award-winning actor who played Captain von Trapp in the film “The Sound of Music” and at 82 became the oldest Academy Award acting winner in history. Feb. 5.
Mary Wilson, 76. The longest-reigning original Supreme. Feb. 8.
Chick Corea, 79. He was a towering jazz pianist with a staggering 23 Grammy Awards who pushed the boundaries of the genre and worked alongside Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. Feb. 9. Cancer.
Larry Flynt, 78. He turned his raunchy Hustler magazine into an empire while fighting numerous First Amendment court battles. Feb. 10.
Johnny Pacheco, 85. A salsa idol who was a co-founder of Fania Records, Eddie Palmieri’s bandmate and backer of music stars such as Rubén Bladés, Willie Colón and Celia Cruz. Feb. 15.
Rush Limbaugh, 70. The conservative radio talk show host ripped into liberals and laid waste to political correctness with a gleeful malice that made him one of the most powerful voices in politics, influencing the rightward push of American conservatism. Feb. 17. Lung cancer.
Arturo Di Modica, 80. The artist who sculpted Charging Bull, the bronze statue in New York that became an iconic symbol of Wall Street. Feb. 19.
Johnny Briggs, 85. A British actor best known for his role as businessman Mike Baldwin in the long-running TV soap opera “Coronation Street.” Feb. 28.
Bunny Wailer, 73. A reggae luminary who was the last surviving founding member of the legendary group The Wailers. March 2.
Carla Wallenda, 85. A member of “The Flying Wallendas” high-wire act and the last surviving child of the famed troupe’s founder. March 6.
Lou Ottens, 94. The Dutch inventor of the cassette tape, the medium of choice for millions of bedroom mix tapes. March 6.
Norton Juster, 91. The celebrated children’s author who fashioned a world of adventure and punning punditry in the million-selling classic “The Phantom Tollbooth.” March 8.
Roger Mudd, 93. The longtime political correspondent and anchor for NBC and CBS who once stumped U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy by simply asking why he wanted to be president. March 9.
James Levine, 77. The conductor ruled over the Metropolitan Opera for more than four decades before being eased aside when his health declined and then was fired for sexual improprieties. March 9.
Yaphet Kotto, 81. The commanding actor who brought tough magnetism and stately gravitas to films, including the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die” and “Alien.” March 15.
Elsa Peretti, 80. She went from Halston model and Studio 54 regular in the 1960s and ‘70s to one of the world’s most famous jewelry designers with timeless, fluid Tiffany & Co. collections. March 18.
George Segal, 87. The banjo player turned actor who was nominated for an Oscar for 1966’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and worked into his late 80s on the ABC sitcom “The Goldbergs.” March 23. Complications from bypass surgery.
Jessica Walter, 80. Her roles as a scheming matriarch in TV’s “Arrested Development” and a stalker in ”Play Misty for Me” were in line with a career that drew on her astringent screen presence. March 24.
Beverly Cleary, 104. The celebrated children’s author whose memories of her Oregon childhood were shared with millions through the likes of Ramona and Beezus Quimby and Henry Huggins. March 25.
Larry McMurtry, 84. The prolific and popular author who took readers back to the old American West in his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lonesome Dove” and returned them to modern-day landscapes in works such as his emotional “Terms of Endearment.” March 25.
Sugako Hashida, 95. She was a renowned Japanese scriptwriter best known for the internationally popular TV drama series “Oshin.” April 4.
Anne Beatts, 74. A groundbreaking comedy writer with a taste for sweetness and the macabre who was on the original staff of “Saturday Night Live” and later created the cult sitcom “Square Pegs.” April 7.
John Naisbitt, 92. The author whose 1982 bestselling book “Megatrends” was published in dozens of countries. April 8.
Prince Philip, 99. The irascible and tough-minded husband of Queen Elizabeth II who spent more than seven decades supporting his wife in a role that both defined and constricted his life. April 9.
DMX, 50. The iconic hip-hop artist behind the songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here)” whose distinctively gruff voice and thoughtful messages in his rhymes made him one of rap’s biggest stars. April 9.
Jim Steinman, 73. The Grammy-winning composer who wrote Meat Loaf’s best-selling “Bat Out of Hell” debut album as well as hits for Celine Dion, Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler. April 19. Kidney failure.
Rusty Young, 75. A founding member of the country rock band Poco who wrote its hit song “Crazy Love.” April 14. Heart attack.
Shock G, 57. He blended whimsical wordplay with reverence for ’70s funk as leader of the off-kilter Bay Area hip-hop group Digital Underground. April 22.
Christa Ludwig, 93. The mezzo-soprano was a renowned interpreter of Wagner, Mozart and Strauss who starred on the world’s great stages for four decades. April 24.
Jason Matthews, 69. An award-winning spy novelist who drew upon his long career in espionage and his admiration for John le Carre among others in crafting his popular “Red Sparrow” thrillers. April 28. Corticobasal degeneration.
Bob Wallace, 80. From 1970 to 1991, the longtime CBS-Channel 2 reporter/storyteller/anchor’s stories took him all over Chicago and the world. April 28. COVID-19.
Olympia Dukakis, 89. The veteran stage and screen actor whose flair for maternal roles helped her win an Oscar as Cher’s mother in the romantic comedy “Moonstruck.” May 1.
Jacques d’Amboise, 86. Grew up on the streets of upper Manhattan to become one of the world’s premier classical dancers at New York City Ballet and spent the last four and a half decades providing free dance classes to city youth. May 2.
Lloyd Price, 88. The singer-songwriter was an early rock ’n’ roll star and enduring maverick whose hits included such up-tempo favorites as “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality” and the semi-forbidden “Stagger Lee.” May 3.
Paulo Gustavo, 42. A popular comedian whose character Dona Herminia dealt with everyday family and LGBTQ issues in some of Brazil’s biggest-box office movies and television shows. May 4. COVID-19.
Pervis Staples, 85. His tenor voice complimented his father’s and sisters’ in the legendary Chicago gospel group The Staple Singers. May 6.
Norman Lloyd, 106. His role as kindly Dr. Daniel Auschlander on TV’s “St. Elsewhere” was a single chapter in a distinguished stage and screen career. May 11.
Dick Kay, 84. The longtime political reporter worked at WMAQ-Channel 5 for 38 years. Hired as a writer in 1968, he soon was covering the Democratic National Convention, one of the biggest political stories of the century. May. 13. Brain hemorrhage.
Charles Grodin, 86. The actor and writer who scored as a caddish newlywed in ”The Heartbreak Kid” and later had roles ranging from Robert De Niro’s counterpart in the comic thriller “Midnight Run” to the bedeviled father in the “Beethoven” comedies. May 18. Bone marrow cancer.
Paul Mooney, 79. A boundary-pushing comedian who was Richard Pryor’s longtime writing partner and whose sage, incisive musings on racism and American life made him a revered figure in stand-up. May 19. Heart attack.
Alix Dobkin, 80. The lesbian singer and feminist activist who appeared in an iconic and recently resurgent 1975 photo wearing a T-shirt that read “The Future is Female.” May 19. Brain aneurysm and stroke.
Eric Carle, 91. A beloved children’s author and illustrator whose classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and other works gave millions of kids some of their earliest and most cherished literary memories. May 23.
Lois Ehlert, 86. Her cut-and-paste shapes and vibrant hues in books including “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” put her among the most popular illustrators of books for preschoolers of the late 20th century. May 25.
Carla Fracci, 84. An Italian cultural icon and former La Scala prima ballerina renowned for romantic roles alongside such greats as Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. May 27.
B.J. Thomas, 78. The Grammy-winning singer who enjoyed success on the pop, country and gospel charts with such hits as “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling.” May 29.
Gavin MacLeod, 90. The veteran supporting actor who achieved fame as sardonic TV news writer Murray Slaughter on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and stardom playing cheerful Capt. Stubing on “The Love Boat.” May 29.
Clarence Williams III, 81. Played the cool undercover cop Linc Hayes on the counterculture series “The Mod Squad” and Prince’s father in ”Purple Rain.” June 4.
James Lott, 53. The music minister who recorded famed gospel performers also oversaw one of the city’s finest contemporary gospel choirs at Sweet Holy Spirit Church of Chicago. June 5.
Ned Beatty, 83. The Oscar-nominated character actor who in half a century of American movies, including “Deliverance,” “Network” and “Superman,” was a booming, indelible presence in even the smallest parts. June 13.
Frank Bonner, 79. He played a brash salesman with an affection for polyester plaid suits on the TV comedy “WKRP in Cincinnati.” June 16. Complications of Lewy body dementia.
Delia Fiallo, 96. She was considered the mother of Latin America’s telenovelas and wrote dozens of the popular television soap operas. June 29.
Raffaella Carra, 78. One of Italian television’s most beloved entertainers for decades and affectionately nicknamed the “queen of Italian TV.” July 5.
Richard Donner, 91. The filmmaker who helped create the modern superhero blockbuster with 1978’s “Superman” and mastered the buddy comedy with the “Lethal Weapon” franchise. July 5.
Dilip Kumar, 98. Bollywood icon hailed as the “Tragedy King” and one of Hindi cinema’s greatest actors. July 7.
Joe Cassidy, 51. The Chicago musician, songwriter and producer was frontman and lead songwriter for the band Assassins. The Humboldt Park resident “was a creative and generous producer,” said legendary composer Jimmy Webb, who wrote songs including “Up, Up and Away,” “Wichita Lineman” and “MacArthur Park.” July 15. Congestive heart failure.
Biz Markie, 57. A hip-hop staple known for his beatboxing prowess, turntable mastery and the 1989 classic “Just a Friend.” July 16.
Floyd Cooper, 65. An award-winning illustrator and author of children’s books whose mission to offer candid and positive images of Black history included subjects ranging from Frederick Douglass to Venus and Serena Williams. July 16.
Tolis Voskopoulos, 80. A popular Greek folk singer, songwriter and actor whose career spanned more than six decades. July 19.
Jackie Mason, 93. The irascible comedian was known for his sharp wit and piercing social commentary, often about being Jewish, men and women, and his own inadequacies. His typical style was amused outrage. July 24.
Joey Jordison, 46. A founding member of Slipknot, who drummed for the influential metal band in its most popular period and helped write many of its best-known songs. July 26.
Dusty Hill, 72. The long-bearded bassist for the Texas blues rock trio ZZ Top. July 28.
Ron Popeil, 86. The quintessential TV pitchman and inventor known to generations of viewers for hawking products including the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone and the Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ. July 28.
Markie Post, 70. She played the public defender in the 1980s sitcom “Night Court” and was a regular presence on television for four decades. Aug. 7.
Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, 70. A founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & the Gang known for such hits as “Celebration” and “Get Down On It.” Aug. 7.
Walter Yetnikoff, 87. The rampaging head of CBS Records who presided over blockbuster releases by Michael Jackson, Billy Joel and many others and otherwise devoted his life to a self-catered feast of “schmoozing, shmingling and bingling.” Aug. 9.
Maki Kaji, 69. The creator of the popular numbers puzzle Sudoku whose life’s work was spreading the joy of puzzles. Aug. 10.
Nanci Griffith, 68. The Grammy-winning folk singer-songwriter from Texas whose literary songs like “Love at the Five and Dime” celebrated the South. Aug. 13.
Michael ‘Mick Rain’ Ruane, 68. The drummer for Chicago power pop group Pezband for nearly 50 years was the big man playing the big drum set for the band, one of a wave of effervescent power pop groups also including Cheap Trick, Material Issue and Shoes to emerge from the Chicago area in the 1970s and 1980s. Aug. 14. COVID-19.
Sonny Chiba, 82. The Japanese actor who wowed the world with his martial arts skills in more than 100 films. Aug. 19.
James W. Loewen, 79. His million-selling “Lies My Teacher Told Me” books challenged traditional ideas and knowledge on everything from Thanksgiving to the Iraq War. Aug. 19.
Tom T. Hall, 85. The singer-songwriter who composed “Harper Valley P.T.A.” and sang about life’s simple joys as country music’s consummate blue-collar bard. Aug. 20.
Don Everly, 84. He was one-half of the pioneering Everly Brothers whose harmonizing country rock hits affected a generation of rock ‘n’ roll music. Aug. 21.
Charlie Watts, 80. The self-effacing Rolling Stones drummer who helped anchor one of rock’s greatest rhythm sections and used his “day job” to support his enduring love of jazz. Aug. 24.
Ed Asner, 91. The burly and prolific character actor who became a star in middle age as the gruff but lovable newsman Lou Grant, first in the hit comedy “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and later in the drama “Lou Grant.” Aug. 29.
John Drake, 74. The Amboy Dukes singer, who shared the spotlight with Ted Nugent on the hit “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” joined the band when they were based in Chicago. Nugent called him “one of the founding fathers of Detroit rock ’n’ roll.” Aug. 29. Complications from cancer.
Michael Constantine, 94. An Emmy Award-winning character actor who reached worldwide fame playing the Windex-bottle-toting father of the bride in the hit 2002 film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Aug. 31.
Allison Payne, 57. The nine-time Emmy Award winner was the face of WGN-TV for two decades and inspired a generation of Black women reporters. Sept. 1.
Mikis Theodorakis, 96. The beloved Greek composer whose rousing music and life of political defiance won acclaim abroad and inspired millions at home. Sept. 2.
Jean-Paul Belmondo, 88. Star of the iconic French New Wave film “Breathless,” whose crooked boxer’s nose and rakish grin made him one of the country’s most recognizable leading men. Sept. 6.
Sunil Perera, 68. A singer and musician who entertained generations of Sri Lankans with captivating songs but won their minds and hearts with his outspoken comments against social injustice, corruption, racism and suppression of democracy. Sept. 6. Complications from COVID-19.
Elizabeth Ireland McCann, 90. A Tony Award-winning producer who helped mount an astounding array of hits on Broadway and in London, including “The Elephant Man,” “Morning’s at Seven,” “Amadeus,” “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” and “Copenhagen.” Sept. 9. Cancer.
Norm Macdonald, 61. A comedian and “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer who was “Weekend Update” anchor when Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson provided comic fodder during the 1990s. Sept. 14.
Jane Powell, 92. The bright-eyed, operatic-voiced star of Hollywood’s golden age musicals who sang with Howard Keel in ”Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and danced with Fred Astaire in ”Royal Wedding.” Sept. 16.
Melvin Van Peebles, 89. The groundbreaking filmmaker, playwright, musician and Chicago native whose work ushered in the “blaxploitation” wave of the 1970s and influenced filmmakers long after. Sept. 21.
Willie Garson, 57. The actor starred as Stanford Blatch, the beloved gay best friend to Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw, on the HBO series “Sex and the City,” two spinoff feature films and the new limited series “And Just Like That ...” Sept. 21. Pancreatic cancer.
George Frayne, 77. As leader of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, he enjoyed a cult following in the 1970s with such party and concert favorites as “Hot Rod Lincoln” and “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette).” Sept. 26.
Michael Renzi, 80. During a storied musical career, he worked with Peggy Lee, Mel Tormé, Lena Horne and some of the other biggest names in jazz and pop, and for years was also the musical director of “Sesame Street.” Sept. 29.
Alan Kalter, 78. The quirky, red-headed announcer for David Letterman for two decades who frequently appeared in the show’s comedy bits. Oct. 4.
Niki Moran, 45. The actor, writer, comedian, singer and dancer was a fixture at Second City (as Niki Lindgren) for nearly a decade. Oct. 5. Metastatic breast cancer.
Timuel Black, 102. The American educator, civil rights activist, historian and author was a champion for civil rights and equity, and a pioneer in the independent Black political movement. Prostate cancer. Oct. 13.
Ronnie Tutt, 83. A legendary drummer who spent years playing alongside Elvis Presley and teamed up with other superstars ranging from Johnny Cash to Stevie Nicks. Oct. 16.
Betty Lynn, 95. The film and television actor who was best known for her role as Barney Fife’s sweetheart Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Oct. 16.
Jerry Pinkney, 81. A prize-winning children’s book illustrator known for his richly textured images of Black life, fables and fairy tales in works ranging from “The Lion and the Mouse” to “The Sunday Outing.” Oct. 20.
Halyna Hutchins, 42. The Ukrainian cinematographer and journalist had worked on more than 30 films, short films and TV miniseries. Oct. 21.
Peter Scolari, 66. A versatile character actor whose television roles included a yuppie producer on “Newhart” and a closeted dad on “Girls” and who was on Broadway with longtime friend Tom Hanks in ”Lucky Guy.” Oct. 22.
Jay Black. The lead singer of Jay and the Americans. With his unmistakable, soaring/falsetto vocals on a string of hits in the 1960s including “Cara Mia,” “This Magic Moment” and “Come a Little Bit Closer,” Black was often referred to as “The Voice” by the group’s devoted fans. Oct. 22. Complications from pneumonia.
Mort Sahl, 94. A satirist who helped revolutionize stand-up comedy during the Cold War with his running commentary on politicians and current events and became a favorite of a new, restive generation of Americans. Oct. 26.
Sabah Fakhri, 88. One of the Arab world’s most famous singers, he entertained generations with traditional songs and preserved nearly extinct forms of Arabic music. Nov. 2.
Marília Mendonça, 26. She was one of Brazil’s most popular singers and a Latin Grammy winner. Nov. 5. Airplane crash.
Dean Stockwell, 85. A top Hollywood child actor who gained new success in middle age in the sci-fi series “Quantum Leap” and in a string of indelible performances in film, including David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet,” Wim Wenders’ “Paris, Texas” and Jonathan Demme’s “Married to the Mob.” Nov. 7.
Jerry Douglas, 88. He played handsome family patriarch John Abbott on “The Young and the Restless” for more than 30 years. Nov. 9.
Graeme Edge, 80. The Moody Blues drummer and co-founder was a key ingredient for the band’s massive prog-rock hits between the 1960s-70s including “Nights in White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon” and “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band).” Nov. 11.
Burgess Gardner, 85. The Chicago jazz trumpeter performed for more than seven decades, performing or recording with legends including Count Basie, Etta James, Louie Bellson, Ray Charles, the Dells, Woody Herman, B.B. King, King Kolax, Lou Rawls, Sammy Davis Jr., Koko Taylor and Sarah Vaughan. He also taught music in Chicago’s public schools. Nov. 20. Congestive heart failure.
Stephen Sondheim, 91. The songwriter who reshaped the American musical theater in the second half of the 20th century with his intelligent, intricately rhymed lyrics, his use of evocative melodies and his willingness to tackle unusual subjects. Nov. 26.
Virgil Abloh, 41. A leading Chicago designer whose groundbreaking fusions of streetwear and high couture made him one of the most celebrated tastemakers in fashion and beyond. Nov. 28. Cancer.
Arlene Dahl, 96. The actor whose charm and striking red hair shone in such Technicolor movies of the 1950s as “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Three Little Words.” Nov. 29.
William J. Norris, 75. The first actor to play Ebenezer Scrooge in the Goodman Theatre’s annual “Christmas Carol.” Nov. 30. Heart problems.
Antony Sher, 72. One of the most acclaimed Shakespearean actors of his generation. Dec. 2.
John Mohrlein, 74, starred as the angel Clarence in Chicago’s second-longest-running holiday play “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!” Dec. 8. Pancreatic cancer.
Lina Wertmueller, 93. Italy’s provocative filmmaker whose mix of sex and politics in “Swept Away” and “Seven Beauties” made her the first woman nominated for an Academy Award for directing. Dec. 9.
Michael Nesmith, 78. The singer-songwriter, author, actor-director and entrepreneur best remembered as the wool-hatted, guitar-strumming member of the made-for-television rock band The Monkees. Dec. 10.
Anne Rice, 80. The novelist whose lush, best-selling gothic tales, including “Interview With the Vampire,” reinvented the blood-drinking immortals as tragic antiheroes. Dec. 11.
Vicente Fernández, 81. An iconic and beloved singer of regional Mexican music who was awarded three Grammys and nine Latin Grammys and inspired a new generation of performers, including his son, Alejandro Fernández. Dec. 12.
bell hooks, 69. The groundbreaking author, educator and activist whose explorations of how race, gender, economics and politics intertwined helped shape academic and popular debates over the past 40 years. Dec. 15.
Wanda Young, 78. A member of Motown’s chart-topping The Marvelettes, Young and other members of the group were teenagers when they recorded “Please Mr. Postman,” which became Motown’s first No. 1 pop hit. Dec. 15. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Sally Ann Howes, 91. The British actress began her acting career as a child but was best known for starring as Truly Scrumptious in the 1968 film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” opposite Dick Van Dyke. Dec. 19.
T. Mark Taylor, 80. He was an artist and toy designer for the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe franchise as well as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Dec. 23. Congestive heart failure.
Rudy Malnati Jr., 65. His last name is recognizable to any pizza-loving Chicagoan. His father, Rudy Malnati Sr., became a pizza authority while working at Pizzeria Uno, which claims credit for inventing the city’s iconic deep-dish pies in 1943. But if there was room for another passion, Rudy Jr.’s was the Chicago Air and Water Show, which he directed for 30 years. Dec. 24. Gallbladder cancer.
Harvey Evans, 80. The actor, singer and dancer had a knack for landing roles in the original Broadway productions of such classics as “West Side Story,” “Follies” “Hello, Dolly!” and “Gypsy.” Dec. 24.
Desmond Tutu, 90. The buoyant, blunt-spoken clergyman used his pulpit as the first Black bishop of Johannesburg and later the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town as well as frequent public demonstrations to galvanize public opinion against racial inequity, both at home and globally. Dec. 26.
Jean-Marc Vallée, 58. The director and producer won an Emmy for directing the hit HBO series “Big Little Lies” and his 2013 drama “Dallas Buyers Club” earned Matthew McConaughey an Oscar. Heart attack.
Betty White, 99. From “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “The Golden Girls” to “Hot in Cleveland,” the five-time Emmy Winner’s career stretched nine decades. She would’ve turned 100 on Jan. 17. Dec. 31.
Contributing: Sun-Times staff reporter Miriam Di Nunzio.