Today would have been my father’s 99th birthday. He died nine years ago, which seems like only yesterday. He was my best friend, whom I miss dearly. Losing a loved one makes it tough around the holidays, when family get-togethers bring out all those sweet memories of the good times, but is overshadowed by the sadness of seeing those empty chairs.
On a brighter note, Kirk Douglas has made it to 100. His b’day was yesterday. Someone on Twitter had jokingly tweeted that it was a bit insensitive for Kirk’s doing so during this year in which so many have left us behind.
On the day before Kirk’s birthday, we lost John Glenn, who was a year older than my mother would have been. She died at the age of 43, well before her time.
Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer succumbed to cancer on the 7th. It’s been a horrible week.
This year has been brutal for whatever reason, losing so many of my heroes. As a social-media friend put it, “Yep. Sad to see them pass on as time marches forward,” which made me think, I’m not that far behind a lot of them.
Looking at the notables who passed away during this year, I decided to put together a short list of those who were memorable to me:
- David Bowie, 69, musician and songwriter.
- Pat Harrington Jr., 86, the super on the TV series, One Day at a Time.
- David Marguiles, 78, actor (Ghostbuster, The Sopranos).
- Glenn Frey, 67, musician, singer and songwriter (Eagles).
- Paul Kantner, 74, musician and songwriter (Jefferson Airplane and Starship).
- Abe Vigoda, 94, actor (Barney Miller, The Godfather).
- Natalie Cole, 65, singer.
- Dan Haggerty, 73, actor (Grizzly Adams).
- Alan Rickman, 69, British actor (Harry Potter, Die Hard).
- Monte Irvin, 96, baseball player (NY Giants).
- Andre Courreges, 92, French fashion designer.
- Robert Stigwood, 81, producer (Saturday Night Fever, Grease).
- Antonin Scalia, 79, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.
- Bob Elliot, 92, comedian (Bob and Ray).
- Edgar Mitchell, 85, American astronaut (Apollo 14).
- Maurice White, 74, musician and songwriter (Earth, Wind and Fire).
- Vanity (Denise Matthews), 57, Canadian singer (Vanity 6).
- Harper Lee, 89, author (To Kill a Mockingbird).
- Charlie Tuna, 71, American radio personality.
- John Caldwell, 69, cartoonist (Mad Magazine).
- George Kennedy, 91, actor (Cool Hand Luke, The Naked Gun, Airport).
- Sonny James, 87, musician, singer-songwriter.
- Gayle McCormick, 57, singer (Smith).
- Nancy Reagan, 94, American First Lady and actress.
- Sir George Martin, 90, record producer, composer, arranger and engineer (Beatles).
- Robert Horton, 91, actor (Wagon Train).
- Keith Emerson, 71, musician (The Nice, Emerson, Lake and Palmer).
- Frank Sinatra Jr., 72, singer and son of Frank Sr.
- Steve Young, 73, singer-songwriter (“Seven Bridges Road”).
- Joe Garagiola Sr., 90, baseball player.
- Garry Shandling, 66, comedian, actor and writer.
- Patty Duke, 69, actress.
- Imre Kertész, 86, Hungarian writer who survived the Holocaust.
- Rob Ford, 46, Canadian politician (Mayor of Toronto).
- Merle Haggard, 79, musician, singer-songwriter.
- Jimmy Van Zant, 59, musician, singer-songwriter, cousin to Donnie, Johnny and Ronnie Van Zant.
- Will Smith, 34, football player (New Orleans Saints).
- Prince, 57, musician, songwriter.
- Guy Clark, 74, singer-songwriter (“Desperados Waiting for a Train”).
- Morley Safer, 84, journalist (60 Minutes).
- Alan Young, 96, actor (Wilbur in the TV series, Mister Ed).
- Harambe, 17, gorilla.
- William Schallert, 93, actor (Patty Duke’s TV-series father).
- Nick Menza, 51, musician (drummer for Megadeth).
- Muhammad Ali, 74, boxer (The Greatest).
- Dave Swarbrick, 75, musician, singer-songwriter (Fairport Convention).
- Dandy Dan Daniels, 82, NYC radio personality (WMCA, WYNY, WCBS).
- Scotty Moore, 84, guitarist (Elvis Presley).
- Buddy Ryan, 85, football head coach (Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals).
- Pat Summitt, 64, basketball coach (Tennessee Lady Vols).
- Rob Wasserman, 64, musician.
- Bill Cunningham, 87, photographer (New York Times).
- Ralph Stanley, 89, musician (bluegrass music pioneer).
- Anton Yelchin, 27, actor (known for the role of Pavel Chekov in Star Trek movies).
- Gordie Howe, 88, hockey player.
- Noel Neill, 95, actress (Lois Lane in the original TV series, Superman).
- Joe Napolitano, 67, television director (Quantum Leap, The X-Files).
- Tom Clegg, 81, British television and film director.
- Gloria DeHaven, 91, actress.
- Garry Marshall, 81, director, writer, producer (Happy Days, The Odd Couple, Lavern and Shirley, Mork and Mindy).
- Elie Wiesel, 87, writer.
- Lou Pearlman, 62, record producer, music manager (Backstreet Boys, NSYNC).
- Gene Wilder, 83, actor.
- Matt Roberts, 38, musician (3 Doors Down).
- Kenny Baker, 81, British actor (R2-D2 operator in Star Wars).
- Pete Fountain, 86, musician (New Orleans jazz clarinetist).
- Fred Hellerman, 89, folk singer, guitarist, producer and songwriter (The Weavers).
- Gérard Louis-Dreyfus, 84, businessman (Louis Dreyfus Company).
- Arnold Palmer, 87, golfer.
- Shimon Peres, 93, Israeli statesman.
- Hanoi Hannah, 87, North Vietnamese radio personality during the war.
- Edward Albee, 88, playwright.
- Gloria Naylor, 66, author.
- Jose Fernandez, 24, baseball player (pitcher for the Miami Marlins).
- Hugh O’Brian, 91, actor (TV series, Wyatt Earp).
- Tom Hayden, 76, writer, American politician and activist (Chicago Seven).
- Bobby Vee, 73, singer (“Rubber Ball,” “Take Good Care of My Baby”), actor.
- Tammy Grimes, 82, actress.
- Phil Chess, 95, record producer (co-founder of Chess Records).
- Dylan Rieder, 27, professional skateboarder and model.
- Leon Russell, 74, musician, singer-songwriter.
- Leonard Cohen, 82, musician, singer-songwriter.
- John Carson, 89, English actor (Doctor Who).
- Janet Reno, 78, lawyer and politician (US Attorney General).
- Robert Vaughn, 83, actor (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).
- Fidel Castro, 90, Cuban dictator.
- Ron Glass. 71, actor (Barney Miller).
- Grant Tinker, 90, television executive (CEO of NBC).
- Florence Henderson, 82, actress (Brady Bunch).
- Gwen Ifill, 61, journalist.
December has been already accounted for in the opening paragraphs of this essay. In reviewing the above list, you may think it isn’t as drastic as many have portrayed, although, still, a lot of my heroes have become ghosts; yet most of them have lived long and successful lives, except for those who were taken away from us, way, too soon!
The musical world took the greatest hit in 2016, in my opinion; but as Robbie Robertson said, “The road has taken a lot of the great ones: Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, Otis Redding, Janis, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis,” which was the reason for the Band’s “Last Waltz.” He got off the road before it was too late.
Here’s hoping 2017 will be a lot better, all the way around. Fortunately, having survived this crazy purge in 2016, I’m glad this year is almost over.
Best wishes for a happy holiday with sincere hopes for a healthy and fulfilling new year for my friends who stop by to read my tirades and drivel, and who continue to offer their support. For that I thank you.
Lastly, allow me to present my latest Cover Your Ears: an oldie, but a goodie. Hope you take the time to give it a listen. Thanks in advance.