We’re not too sure what went on in 2016, but it was a dangerous year for celebrities. Many of the greatest entertainers in athletics, music and cinema, old and young, left us confused and anxious, here, in the mortal realm. So with great respect and sadness we give you our top ten celebrity deaths of 2016.
10. David Bowie
Our first celebrity is someone with decades of success, setting the stage for the raw talent found on this list. David Bowie began his career in the 1960s, eventually breaking out with one of his great hits, Space Oddity, in 1969. Since then, he went on to become one of the most famous rock musicians and singers of all time. Landing plenty of hits in the 70s and 80s, recording music up until his death and releasing his final album, Blackstar, a mere two days before he passed.
9. Phife Dawg
One of the unique voices in hip-hop, and most influential rappers of all time, Phife Dawg a.k.a. The Five Foot Assassin. He was the roughneck side of hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, grabbing everyone’s attention with his self-deprecation and rhythmic drive, he added a child-like innocence to the group, and influenced future rappers with the poignancy of his messages. His sugar addiction led to fatal complications ending his life at the early age of 45.
8. Leonard Cohen
There have been few poets of the 20th century whose words have been so widespread as Leonard Cohen’s. Born in Montreal, studying poetry and music his entire life, there is no doubt why he was considered among the finest lyricists of all time. The grave depth of his voice, and the perfection of his words resulted in a unique style of music that transcends genres. Like his music, we hope he has transcended to a higher place filled with pencils, paper and things to write about.
7. Nancy Reagan
Nancy Reagan became first lady of the United States in January 1981, married to Ronald Reagan, who, like her, previously had a career in Hollywood. Her time was always spent trying to find ways of improving other people’s lives, or on her War on Drugs campaign to get people to stop using. Remember – Just say NO.
6. Muhammad Ali
He could fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee, one of the best fighters you ever did see, introducing… Muhammad Ali. Without a doubt, one of the greatest champions of all time in boxing and as an activist. Ali had a charisma that has yet to be matched in sports, and he was able to maintain it with his dignity and sense of humour. After years of suffering from boxing and age complicated issues, he’s now resting peacefully.
Prince has, and always will be, the quintessential artist. Larger than life, mysterious, and gifted with blazing hot talent, President Obama once said, he was a “brilliant bandleader” and “cultural icon”. He got his start at the tender age of 18 after being signed to Warner Brothers. While the stereotype of a musician is that they’re usually awful with money, Prince had a reputation for his keen financial sense. The years of dedicated performances took their toll on his body, and he had been self medicating himself with pain killers for at least 15 years in private. There is a fine balance when it comes to being dedicated, but as they say in the biz, “the show must go on”.
4. Gene Wilder
One of the most talented American born actors, beloved by the young and the old, comedic genius Gene Wilder could appeal to anyone. While he struggled with bad luck and bouts of darkness in his personal life, he never failed to put a smile on the faces of those who watched his movies. His association with Mel Brooks would lead to some of America’s favourite comedies, as they always brought out the best in each other. Before we move on with the list, here’s a quote from the man himself, “Be careful what you wish for, or you just might get it”.
3. Frank Sinatra Jr.
Son of the famous Frank Sinatra, Sinatra Jr. was a very talented musician in his own right. His skill was so good that he ended up being his father’s professional arranger, as well as a talented singer among other things. His passing in a way represented the last of the crooner legacy. Maybe his old brand of music will come back into popularity somehow, someday, someway.
2. Harper Lee
In these times of social change, we need important figures who know how to really tell a story. Harper Lee was in no shortage of interesting story details, yet To Kill A Mockingbird was her only published book until just before her death.. Though she may have only published two novels, To Kill A Mockingbird has the stood the test of time and will be an important text for years to come.
1. Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds
Topping our list, sadly is a mother-daughter duo. Although she played the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars, Carrie Fisher did not fit the noble stereotype. She was rude, crude and here for a good time. While she was born to Hollywood nobility, her life was not easy and was fraught with drug abuse, even as she was filming the original Star Wars trilogy. She may have lived hard, but she lived well, with a sense of humour to match. Sadly, the day after she passed, her mother, Debbie Reynolds, also slipped into the next life. Debbie Reynolds was most famous for her role as the leading lady in Gene Kelly’s “Singing in the Rain”, but she was also a successful business woman, singer and humanitarian. The death of her daughter may have been too heavy a burden to bear. Both will be fondly remembered.
It’s sad to see so much talent leave this world in such a short period of time, and yet it’s remarkable how it can bring people together, and make people feel genuinely connected to each other. There’s something in these people that we relate to which has given them universal appeal. Let’s not focus on how or when they died, instead, let’s focus on how they lived.