LOS ANGELES, CA — Few would want to linger on the headlines of 2020. Hope lies with the coming year.
But how can we move on without a final farewell to those who shared this moment of history? It was a year of unfathomable loss, with more than 330,000 Americans dying from the coronavirus. Among those we lost in 2020 were legends of the court and the courts, singers who created the soundtracks of our lives, trailblazers, iconoclasts, and comedians who could make smiles blossom even in the darkest of times.
Some died young and unexpectedly. Some spent their lives in the spotlight. In this year of heartache, we lost “The Innovator, The Originator, and The Architect of Rock and Roll,” the ultimate 007, and the notorious RBG.
To all the greats who entertained and inspired us, rest in peace.
Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was killed along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people in a helicopter crash into a Calabasas hillside on the morning of Jan. 26. The tragedy shook the sports world and the city of Angeles, where Bryant was a champion and an inspiration for fans and athletes alike.
Almost overnight, murals cropped up around the city memorializing the basketball legend, whose untimely death broke a city’s heart.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal lion of the court, died of complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer on Sept. 18. She spent her life fighting gender discrimination, earning her cult status as a champion of women’s rights.
She battled four bouts of cancer before succumbing; and despite her deathbed wish that her seat not be filled during President Donald Trump’s term, her passing set off a partisan scramble that shifted the nation’s highest court lopsidedly rightward.
Kirk Douglas, one of the last legends left from Hollywood’s golden era, died Feb. 5 at the age of 103.
Douglas, who uttered one of the most quoted lines in film history — “I am Spartacus” — was a three-time Oscar nominee. He was also considered a champion of artists for his role in helping to end the Hollywood blacklisting of the 1950s.
Douglas was nominated for an Oscar for his leading roles in the films “Champion,” “The Bad and the Beautiful,” and “Lust for Life.” He received an honorary Oscar in 1996 and received the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1968.
Sean Connery, whose defining portrayal of James Bond could never be matched, died in his sleep on Halloween night. The charismatic Scot was a bonafide leading man for decades, earning an Academy Award and setting a record as People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” at age 59.
Long after his leading man days, he continued to have box office success in “Indiana Jones” and “The Untouchables” for which he won his Oscar.
Honor Blackman, played perhaps the most memorable Bond girl, Pussy Galore, in “Goldfinger.” She died April 5 at age 94. Though she was the most famous of Bond Girls from the Connery era, she herself was equally famous for her roles in “The Avengers” and “Jason and the Argonauts.”
Little Richard, “The innovator, The Originator, and The Architect of Rock and Roll” died May 9 from complications relating to cancer. The flamboyant rock legend was known for classics such as “Tutti-Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.” A pioneer of the new genre “rock ‘n’ roll,’ Little Richard had a hyperkinetic piano style and howling vocals. He was truly an innovator in music as one of the first Black crossover artists and as a gay man celebrated across America in the ’50s.
Actress Kelly Preston died July 12 after a yearslong battle with breast cancer. She kept her battle private, and her death, announced by husband John Travolta, shocked Hollywood.
Preston worked in the industry for decades as a leading lady and supporting actress in “Jerry Maguire,” “For Love of The Game” and “Addicted To Love.” Preston most recently acted in “Gotti” in 2018.
Alex Trebek, the venerable host of “Jeopardy!”, died July 22 after a fierce battle against pancreatic cancer.
He hosted “Jeopardy!” for 37 years right up until his death. His friendly banter and no-nonsense manner helped make his game show one of the most enduring and beloved in the United States. He shared with his fans his battle with cancer with the same dignity and generosity that endeared him to millions.
Actor Chadwick Boseman’s Aug. 28 death, at the peak of his fame, shocked Hollywood.
The “Black Panther” and “Get On Up” star died from a yearslong bout with cancer that he kept hidden from the public. As he rose to superstardom, he was privately undergoing “countless surgeries and chemotherapy” to battle colon cancer, according to his family.
Boseman earned recognition for his portrayals of Jackie Robinson and James Brown, two barrier-breaking icons. Boseman broke barriers in his own right. His portrayal in “Black Panther” helped the film to become one of the first superhero movies to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination. It also proved that a movie about a Black superhero could conquer the box office.
Jerry Stiller, the comedian and legendary sitcom dad, died May 11 of natural causes. Part of the comedy duo with wife, Anne Meara, for decades, Stiller found widespread fame in his later years as Frank Costanza, George Costanza’s firecracker father on “Seinfeld” and later as the father-in-law on “The King of Queens.” His son, actor Ben Stiller, announced his passing to the world, triggering an outpouring of tributes from younger comedians inspired by Stiller.
Four-time Emmy Award-winner Fred Willard died May 15 of cardiac arrest. The off-kilter comedic actor was famous for his improv and a favorite of other comedians. His career spanned decades with films such as “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Waiting for Guffman,” “A Mighty Wind” and “Best in Show” and the sitcom “Modern Family.”
Carl Reiner, one of the most beloved comedy straight men, died June 29 of natural causes.
Reiner rose to fame on the “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” and continued to work into his senior years in the “Ocean’s Eleven” films.
Films he directed included “Oh, God!” starring George Burns and John Denver; “All of Me,” with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin; and the 1970 comedy “Where’s Poppa?” He was especially proud of his books, including “Enter Laughing,” an autobiographical novel later adapted into a film and Broadway show; and “My Anecdotal Life,” a memoir published in 2003. He recounted his childhood and creative journey in the 2013 book, “I Remember Me.”
Van Halen band founder and guitar genius Eddie Van Halen died Oct. 6 after a long battle with throat cancer.
Van Halen was considered ahead of his time for an innovative electric guitar style that made him one of the most influential hard rock stars of the 1970s and ’80s. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer inspired a generation of imitators.
Eddie Van Halen founded the eponymous band with his brother, Alex Van Halen, bassist Mark Stone and colorful singer David Lee Roth, with whom he famously clashed. He was the band’s main songwriter. Formed in 1972, the band Van Halen skyrocketed to stardom with five multi-platinum records in five years. The band’s sole No. 1 single, “Jump,” was released on the wildly successful album “1984.”
Bill Withers, who wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time — including “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” — died from heart complications March 30.
He was a three-time Grammy Award winner who inspired generations of songwriters and musicians.
“He’s the last African American Everyman,” musician and bandleader Questlove told Rolling Stone in 2015. “Bill Withers is the closest thing Black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.”
Charley Pride, one of the first Black country music legends, died Dec. 12 from complications of COVID-19.
Throughout his career, the trailblazing baritone shattered barriers, and his hits “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” and “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” earned him the adoration of fans. Pride was the first Black man to enter into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Carol Sutton, 76
Stage and screen star Carol Sutton died Dec. 10 from the coronavirus.
David Prowse, the man behind the most-feared mask in the galaxy, died Nov. 28 after a short illness. Prowse portrayed one of the most iconic characters in the film, yet few would recognize his face. He was the actor inside the Darth Vader costume, physically portraying the galactic villain.
Prowse donned Darth Vader’s black armor and helmet for “Star Wars” (1977), “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Return of the Jedi” (1983). He also appeared in the iconic “A Clockwork Orange,” playing a muscle-bound manservant.
Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer great who scored the “Hand of God” goal in 1986 and led his country to that year’s World Cup title, died Nov. 25 of a heart attack two weeks after undergoing brain surgery.
One of the sport’s all-time greats, Maradona was bold, fast and utterly unpredictable, and a master of attack. Dodging and weaving with his low center of gravity, he shrugged off countless rivals and often scored with a devastating left foot, his most powerful weapon.
Helen Reddy, who shot to stardom in the 1970s with her rousing feminist anthem “I Am Woman” and recorded a string of other hits, died Sept. 29
Reddy’s 1971 version of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” launched a decade-long string of Top 40 hits, three of which reached No. 1.
The Australian-born singer enjoyed a prolific career, appearing in “Airport 1975” as a singing nun and scoring several hits including “Ain’t No Way To Treat a Lady,” “Delta Dawn,” “Angie Baby” and “You and Me Against the World.”
Country singer-songwriter John Prine died of complications from the coronavirus on April 7. He was one of the first celebrities to be taken by the disease.
Considered one of the great American songwriters, his songs included “Hello In There,” “Angel from Montgomery” and “Sam Stone.”
Actress Naya Rivera, the young actress who rose to fame on the hit show “Glee,” tragically drowned July 8 while boating with her 4-year-old son.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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