Celebrity deaths are always tragic, and though 2016’s list of lost stars was daunting (Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, and Carrie Fisher, just to name a few), 2017 is already shaping up to bring on the tears. Here are all the celebs to whom we said a final farewell in 2017.
William Peter Blatty
Author and Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Exorcist (1973) William Peter Blatty, died Jan. 12, 2017. He was 89 years old. The Exorcist novel was on The New York Times bestseller list for a whopping 57 weeks, and the film was the first horror movie to be nominated for a best picture Oscar. He is survived by his wife, Julie.
Actor Dick Gautier’s most famous role was Hymie the Robot in 1960s spy spoof Get Smart (1965-70), though he also starred in Charlie’s Angels (1976-81),Fantasy Island (1977-84), and Fun with Dick and Jane (1977). He was a prolific voice actor, lending his pipes to The Addams Family(1964-66), the Tom & Jerry Kids Show (1990-94), Batman: The Animated Series (1992-95), Smurfs (1985-89), Transformers (1986-87), and G.I. Joe (1986). He passed away on Jan. 15, 2017, after a battle with pneumonia. He is survived by his ex-wife Tess, two daughters, a son, four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. He was 85 years old.
Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka
Pro wrestling legend Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka died Jan. 15, 2017, according to family friend Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson via Twitter. Snuka, 73, had been battling dementia and cancer.
Snuka rose to fame in 1982 but quickly found himself at the center of a scandal because he was married but had a 23-year-old girlfriend named Nancy Argentino whom he found unconscious in a hotel bed, reported NBC News. Argentino passed away, and though her death was ruled accidental, Snuka lost a wrongful death lawsuit that her family filed against him. The wrestler reportedly claimed he couldn’t afford the $500,000 civil judgment. In 2013, it was revealed that Argentino’s death should have been investigated as a homicide, and Snuka was subsequently charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. He was ruled unfit to stand trial and the case against him was dropped just weeks before he died, reported Rolling Stone.
“Snuka is regarded by many as the pioneer of high-flying offense because of his Superfly Splash from the top turnbuckle,” WWE said in a statement following his death (via NBC News). “His dive off the top of the steel cage onto Don Muraco at Madison Square Garden as hundreds of flash bulbs went off will forever live as one of the most memorable moments in WWE history.”
NCIS: Los Angeles (2009-) star Miguel Ferrer passed away from cancer on Jan. 19, 2017, at age 61. Showrunner R. Scott Gemmill said in a statement (via Us Weekly), “Today, NCIS: Los Angeles lost a beloved family member. Miguel was a man of tremendous talent who had a powerful dramatic presence on scene, a wicked sense of humor, and a huge heart.”
Ferrer was the son of singer Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer and a cousin of actor George Clooney, who also released a statement about the loss (via E! News). “Today history will mark giant changes in our world, and lost to most will be that on the same day Miguel Ferrer lost his battle to throat cancer. But not lost to his family. Miguel made the world brighter and funnier and his passing is felt so deeply in our family that events of the day (monumental events) pale in comparison. We love you Miguel. We always will.”
Before NCIS, Ferrer starred in CHiPS (1977-83), Magnum, P.I. (1980-88), and Twin Peaks (199-91). Just before his death, he reprised his role as Bob Morton in the 2017 Twin Peaks reboot.
Singer Maggie Roche of folk group The Roches, who got her start as a background singer for Paul Simon, died of cancer on Jan. 21, 2017. She was 65. Roche’s bandmate and sister, Suzzy Roche, wrote on Facebook, “She was a private person, too sensitive and shy for this world, but brimming with life, love, and talent. I want to let you know how grateful she was to everyone who listened and understood her through her music and her songs.” Variety reported that The Roches continued to release albums and tour regularly from the group’s 1975 inception until its final project, 2007’s Moonswept.
The Allman Brothers band founding member and drummer Claude “Butch” Trucks tragically took his own life on Jan. 23, 2017. The Daily Mail reported that police responded to a call from Trucks’ wife, Melinda, who told dispatchers that her 69-year-old husband shot himself in the head in front of her. He was reportedly still breathing when paramedics arrived but died seconds later.
Trucks suffered from financial distress in the final years of his life, according to the Daily Mail. In 2011, he reportedly sold his Palm Beach, Fla. home for $2 million, only half of its estimated value, to pay off a $800,000 mortgage that was at risk of foreclosure. In 2014, he bought the $500,000 condo where he took his own life. He also had two IRS liens against his the condo, forcing him to pay more than $540,000 in taxes in 2013 and 2014.
Trucks’ rep issued a statement to Rolling Stone: “The Trucks and Allman Brothers Band families request all of Butch’s friends and fans to please respect our privacy at this time of sadness for our loss. Butch will play on in our hearts forever.” In a separate statement, Gregg Allman told the press, “I’m heartbroken. I’ve lost another brother and it hurts beyond words. Butch and I knew each other since we were teenagers and we were bandmates for over 45 years. He was a great man and a great drummer and I’m going to miss him forever. Rest In Peace Brother Butch.”
Mary Tyler Moore
TV legend Mary Tyler Moore died Jan. 25, 2017, at age 80. Her rep told Page Six the Hollywood icon passed away “in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine. A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.” Moore had been in poor health for several years leading up to her death, TMZ reported. She reportedly died from cardiopulmonary arrest brought on by aspiration pneumonia, diabetes, and hypoxia (a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissue). Moore’s screen legacy lives on, and sales of her TV shows soared following the news of her death.
Mannix (1967-75) star Mike Connors passed away at age 91 on Jan. 26, 2017, just one week after being diagnosed with leukemia, Variety reported. Mannix was the last series birthed by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s Desilu Productions. Connors earned a Golden Globe for his role as a rule-breaking detective determined to do his job on his own terms. Born Krekor Ohanian, he remained active in showbiz as recently as 2007, landing cameos and recurring parts in Two and a Half Men (2007),TheLove Boat (1981-82); and Walker, Texas Ranger (1998), and Murder, She Wrote (1989-95). His career began in movies, where Connors, then going by the stage name Touch Connors, appeared in John Wayne’s Island in the Sky (1953) and The Ten Commandments (1956).
Actress Barbara Hale died Jan. 26, 2017, at age 94. Her most famous role was that of the titular character’s secretary, Della Street, on Perry Mason from 1957 to 1966. Hale also landed big-screen roles opposite many Hollywood legends, including Frank Sinatra in Higher and Higher (1943), Robert Mitchum in West of the Pecos (1945), Rock Hudson and Anthony Quinn in Seminole (1953), James Cagney in A Lion Is in the Streets (1953), and Charlton Heston in The Far Horizons (1955). Her son, actor William Katt, announced her death on Facebook, writing, “She was gracious and kind and silly and always fun to be with…A wonderful actress and smart business woman, she was most of all a treasure as a friend and mother.”
Legendary British actor John Hurt died Jan. 27, 2017, after a battle with pancreatic cancer that began in 2015. He was 77. Three things in particular set Hurt apart from his peers: his ability to seemingly shape-shift his appearance to disappear into roles such as John Merrick in The Elephant Man (1980), for which he was nominated for an Oscar; his deep, husky voice; and his characters frequently dying in his films—which have all been compiled into a four-minute montage. His recent projects included Mr. Ollivander in the Harry Potter films (2001-16), V for Vendetta (2006), the Hellboy franchise (2004-08), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), as well as playing the War Doctor in the 2013-2014 season of Dr. Who. He earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTAs) in 2012 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2015. Hurt is survived by his fourth wife, Anwen Rees-Myers, and sons Nicholas and Alexander.
French actress Emmanuelle Riva died Jan. 27, 2017, after a long battle with cancer. The star’s career spanned more than five decades, with standout roles at its beginning and end: Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), for which she was nominated for a BAFTA, and Amour (2012), for which she earned a BAFTA and a Cesar Award, as well as an Oscar nomination. She was 89 years old.
Asia frontman John Wetton died Jan. 31, 2017, from colon cancer. He was 67 years old. The band’s drummer, Carl Palmer, told Rolling Stone in a statement, “John was a gentle person who created some of the most lasting melodies and lyrics in modern popular music. As a musician, he was both brave and innovative, with a voice that took the music of Asia to the top of the charts around the world. His ability to triumph over alcohol abuse made him an inspiration to many who have also fought that battle. For those of us who knew him and worked with him, his valiant struggle against cancer was a further inspiration. I will miss his talent, his sense of humor and his infectious smile.” Wetton is survived by his wife, Lisa, his son, Dylan, his mother, Peggy, and his brother, Robert.
Comedian and actor Irwin Corey, known as “The World’s Foremost Authority,” died at age 102 on Feb. 6, 2017. The funnyman’s persona was that of an absent-minded professor, which Corey used to poke fun at sesquipedalians (which are people who use words, like, well “sesquipedalians.”) Corey was raised with his siblings in an orphanage because his family couldn’t provide for them. After rising to fame, the comedian was blacklisted in the 1950s because of his political leanings to the left, NPR reported. He was often seen panhandling in the streets of New York City, but it wasn’t what you may think. He told The New York Times that his panhandling proceeds, which amounted to tens of thousands of dollars, all went to charity.
Alexander “Alec” McCowen died Feb. 6, 2017, at age 91. The English actor played gadgeteer Q opposite Sean Connery’s James Bond in Never Say Never Again (1983). BBC News reported that McCowen is survived by his sister, Jean, two nieces, and two nephews. His partner, Geoffrey Burridge, passed away in 1987.
Battlestar Galactica (1978-79) star Richard Hatch died Feb. 7, 2017, from pancreatic cancer. He was 71 years old. Hatch was a writer and producer in addition to an actor, getting his start on the cast of All My Children in 1970 before landing his most famous gig as Captain Apollo in the sci-fi adventure series, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1979. He worked steadily his entire adult life with a slew of cameo roles, as well as spots in multiple post-Battlestar Galactica TV shows, including Dynasty from 1984 to 1985, Santa Barbara in 1990, The Silicon Assassin Project from 2012 to 2013, and the Battlestar Galactica reboot from 2004 to 2009. Hatch also completed several projects that will be released posthumously, including Blade of Honor (2017), Asylum of Darkness (2017), and Diminuendo (2017).
Jazz singer Al Jarreau passed away on Feb. 12, 2017, just days after retiring from live performances. The seven-time Grammy winner’s official Twitter account announced the news with a post reading, “[Jarreau] passed away this morning. He was in the hospital, kept comfortable by his wife, son, and a few of his family and friends.” Jarreau’s most famous track was likely the theme song to the TV series Moonlighting (1985-89), which reached no. 23 in 1987. He was 79 years old and is reportedly survived by his wife, Susan, and son, Ryan.
Actor Bill Paxton passed away on Feb. 26 due to complications from surgery. He was 61 years old. His family released a statement to People that said, in part, “A loving husband and father, Bill began his career in Hollywood working on films in the art department and went on to have an illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and filmmaker. Bill’s passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable. We ask to please respect the family’s wish for privacy as they mourn the loss of their adored husband and father.”
Paxton’s earliest big screen roles included Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986), but he gained acclaim in the 1990s with starring turns in Apollo 13 (1995), Twister (1996), and Titanic (1997), as well as his lead role in HBO’s Big Love, for which he earned three Golden Globe nominations.
Paxton is survived by his wife of 30 years, Louise Newbury, his son, James, and his daughter, Lydia.
Game of Thrones (2011-) actor Neil Fingleton, who starred as Mag the Mighty on the series, died of heart failure on Feb. 25. He was only 36 years old.
Fingleton was famous for his height. According to The Sun, the 7 foot 7 inch star was the tallest man in his native United Kingdom as well as the European Union. Fingleton appeared in X-Men: First Class (2011), Jupiter Ascending (2015), and Doctor Who (2015) and performed stunt work and motion capture performances in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).
In an interview for the Guinness Book of World Records (via The Sun), Fingleton said, “My height really took off when I reached 11 and was touching 7ft. By the time I was 16 I was 7ft 5in and stopped growing at 18 when I was 7ft 7.56in…I have never been self conscious about my height. I am more conscious of going bald so that should tell you [something].” He added, “I never let my height play a negative part in my life. I always do what I want, some tall people may be restricted as they are constantly stared at or people ask the same questions over and over. This is the only bad thing about being tall—the stupid remarks and questions. Other than that, being tall is great.”
His rep told Deadline, “Neil was a great actor, always professional and a down to earth kind of guy and it was a pleasure to have worked with him. We know he will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”
Judge Joseph Wapner
Famous TV Judge Joseph Wapner died of natural causes on Feb. 26 at age 97. Wapner was the first judge on The People’s Court in 1981, presiding over the television courtroom for 12 years, and he’s been credited as the first reality television courtroom star. Before he was a TV star, Wapner was a war hero, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star in World War II.
One of Wapner’s two sons, David Miron-Wapner, told CNN, “He is a man of the greatest honor and integrity that anybody has ever met, and he certainly passed that down to both of us.” Andrew Guzman, dean of the USC Gould School of Law, said in a statement (via CNN), People’s Court “brought our system of justice into American homes and was truly revolutionary.”
Wapner is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mickey, sons, two daughters-in-law, four grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
Turner Classic Movies host and film historian Robert Osborne died March 6, 2017 at age 84.
TCM General Manager Jennifer Dorian issued a statement (via Variety): “…Robert was a beloved member of the Turner family for more than 23 years. He joined us as an expert on classic film and grew to be our cherished colleague and esteemed ambassador for TCM. Robert was embraced by devoted fans who saw him as a trusted expert and friend. His calming presence, gentlemanly style, encyclopedic knowledge of film history, fervent support for film preservation and highly personal interviewing style all combined to make him a truly world-class host. Robert’s contributions were fundamental in shaping TCM into what it is today and we owe him a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time.”
Osborne began his career in Hollywood as an actor under Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s production company Desilu. He wrote the book Academy Awards Illustrated before becoming an entertainment reporter for CBS Morning News and The Hollywood Reporter. Osborne was an official greeter at the Academy Awards from 2006 to 2010. When the TCM network debuted in 1994, he became its primary on-air personality and one of the last remaining hosts on a cable film network.
Joni Sledge, a founding member of Sister Sledge, was found dead in her home on March 10, 2017. Sources told TMZ that she died of natural causes and no foul play is suspected, and cited an unspecified pre-existing medical condition for her passing. She was 60 years old.
Sister Sledge became famous in the 1970s for disco hits including “We Are Family,” and they campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, a cause about which Joni was particularly passionate. “I was watching the television when she made the announcement that she would be the Democratic [nominee] and I just looked at her and thought, ‘I can’t imagine what this woman has gone through to get to this position.’ Being a woman in business we must go through so much,” Joni told Essence. Just everything she’s done in her 30-year history in politics, for her to do that, I was just overwhelmed. It made me feel so good that I called her agent and just said we will do whatever it takes to help her get in there.”
Sister Sledge’s team said in a statement to Essence on March 11, “Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We are saddened to inform you that our dear sister, mother, aunt, niece and cousin, Joni passed away yesterday. Please pray for us as we weep for this loss. We do know that she is now eternally with Our Lord.”
Joni is survived by her sisters and one adult son.
Grammy winning blues star James Cotton passed away from pneumonia on March 16, 2017, Rolling Stone reported. The full-throated harmonica expert, who’d been performing professionally since age 9, was featured on projects by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, among others. His most recent album, 2013’s “Cotton Mouth Man,” was nominated for a Grammy. Cotton was 81 when he died and is survived by wife Jacklyn Hairston Cotton, daughters Teresa Hampton and Marshall Ann Cotton, son James Patrick Cotton, and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Chuck Berry, often credited as the inventor of rock n’ roll, was found dead on March 18, 2017 at 90 years old. Police in St. Charles County, Missouri, posted on Facebook (via CNN), “Unfortunately, the 90-year-old man could not be revived and was pronounced deceased at 1:26 p.m. The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry.”
Berry’s 1950s-era hits included “Johnny B. Goode,” “School Days,” “Maybellene,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” He influenced everyone who came after him, from Elvis to The Beatles to the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, and AC/DC. He had another hit in 1972 with “My Ding A Ling.”
The legend wasn’t without controversy: He was arrested in 1959 for allegedly bringing a minor suspected of prostitution across state lines, for which he served 18 months in prison. In 1979, he served three months in prison for tax evasion. A decade later, several women sued Berry for allegedly videotaping them in the restroom of his St. Louis-area restaurant; he eventually confessed to the deeds and paid restitution to 74 women.
Berry is survived by his wife, Themetta “Toddy” Berry, to whom he dedicated his final album (and his first in 38 years), due to hit shelves this year. His family said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened to announce that Chuck Berry — beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather — passed away at his home today at the age of 90. Though his health had deteriorated recently, he spent his last days at home surrounded by the love of his family and friends. The Berry family asks that you respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
Felicia “Auntie Fee” O’Dell, also known as “Chef Sista Girl,” passed away at 59 years old on March 17, 2017 after suffering a heart attack days earlier. The YouTube sensation’s son, Travis Hunter, confirmed her passing in a Facebook post, writing, “Thank you for all the prayers and hope, it did all it can do and now God made the decision to take my mother home where it’s peace [and] joy and I’m okay with that. She can finally be happy. RIP Momma.”
Jerseylicious star Mike Aktari died on March 13, 2017 at 28 years old. The personal trainer’s cause of death is unknown, but authorities told TMZ that no foul play is suspected, and an official cause of death may not be determined until toxicology results are released.
Aktari’s ex-girlfriend and co-star, Olivia Blois Sharpe, wrote a heartfelt tribute to Aktari on Instagram following his passing.
“My heart has never hurt this hard. I wouldn’t trade those three years we spent together for the world. You showed me never ending love and loyalty. You accepted me as my crazy goofy self and loved it. You looked at me the way no one ever has. You had the most wonderful heart,” she wrote. “I wish I made more of an attempt to get together to catch up when you asked. I’ll always love you Milad.”
In a followup post, she wrote, “Our time here is so valuable and limited. If there is someone who has a part of your heart, no matter what has transpired in the past, no matter what the situation might be..LET THEM KNOW how much they mean to you. Milad takes a piece of my heart with him.”
Former Boston drummer Sib Hashian died on March 22, 2017 after collapsing onstage aboard a cruise ship. “It is with deep and profound sadness I share the news of my husband’s, John ‘Sib’ Hashian, the drummer formerly of the band Boston, sudden death,” said Suzanne Hashian, his wife of 38 years, in a statement to WCVB.
Hashian’s son told Fox News that his cause of death is unknown, but that the family suspects a heart attack.
Boston said in a statement on Facebook, “Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of Sib Hashian who unexpectedly passed away yesterday. Sib’s high energy drumming on the early Boston albums and tours leaves a legacy that will be remembered by millions.”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is in a long-term relationship with Hashian’s daughter Lauren, wrote a touching tribute to the rocker on Instagram, accompanied by a selfie with his family. “Rest In Peace & Love to my second dad Sib Hashian,” the caption reads. “Don’t know why things have to happen the way they do sometimes. When loved ones leave us so suddenly without having a chance to say goodbye. Perhaps the lesson here is the reminder to live our lives as full and as present as we possibly can, because we just never know what’s around the corner. What a full and exciting life this man lived. What an amazing family he created, loved, watched over and protected. Being on stage, in front of adoring fans, friends and family. Keeping the beat one last time. Your passing in this manner is extremely poetic and somehow beautiful. Thank you for the many life lessons you’ve taught over the years. Grateful. We love you Sib. We miss you.”
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) star Darlene Cates passed away on March 27, 2017. Cates was 69, and her family reported to Variety that she died peacefully in her sleep. The actress played the 500-pound Mama Grape in the classic drama. Her onscreen son, Leonardo DiCaprio, paid tribute to her in a Facebook post, writing, “Darlene was the best acting mom I ever had the privilege of working alongside. Her endearing personality and incredible talent will live on in the memories of those who knew her, and those who loved her work. My thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time.”
Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O’Neill was found dead on April 5, 2017. O’Neill was 61 at the time of his death. The band said in a statement on Facebook, “The entire Trans-Siberian Orchestra family, past and present, is heartbroken to share the devastating news that Paul O’Neill has passed away from chronic illness. He was our friend and our leader — a truly creative spirit and an altruistic soul. This is a profound and indescribable loss for us all.”
Police said O’Neill’s body was discovered in a hotel room in Tampa, Fla., and that no foul play is suspected. Pitchfork reports that the band was one of the most successful live acts of the century, performing to more than 5 million people between 2000 and 2009 and donating $1 per ticket to charity — which eventually amounted to at least $11 million for causes they believed in.
Legendary comedian Don Rickles passed away in the early morning on April 6, 2017. The funnyman was 90 years old when he died of kidney failure in his Los Angeles home with his wife of more than 50 years, Barbara, by his side, TMZ reported.
Rickles was close friends with Frank Sinatra, with whom he worked frequently. He was a regular on The Tonight Show and The Dean Martin Show in the 1960s, as well as a Las Vegas fixture in the 1980s. He had his own TV show, The Don Rickles Show, on ABC in 1972. Younger generations may recognize the veteran roaster as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story franchise.
Reality star Clay Adler, who appeared on MTV’s Newport Harbor: The Real Orange County, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on March 26, 2017 when he was just 27 years old. TMZ reports that Adler was on a trip to the desert with friends to go shooting on March 25, 2017, when he turned the gun on himself. He died in the hospital the following day.
No drugs or alcohol were in Adler’s system, but sources told the site that he suffered from mental illness in the past.
Adler was close with actress Jennifer Lawrence, with whom he got his start in Hollywood, and his death reportedly hit her hard. “Clay brings Jennifer back to her humble beginnings and hearing that he took his own life really has made Jennifer feel heartbroken,” a source told Hollywood Life. “It is really sad because she remembers him fondly and never wants to hear anything like this happen to anyone, especially to someone she once knew very well. It’s a shame and she is really bummed out over it.”
General Hospital star Peter Hansen died at 95 on April 9, 2017. Hansen starred on the series from 1965 until 2004, The Hollywood Reporter says, winning a Daytime Emmy in 1979 for his portrayal of Lee Baldwin on the show.
Hansen’s wife of 50 years, Betty, passed away in 1993. He is survived by son Peter, daughter Gretchen, and three grandchildren, as well as longtime companion Barbara Wenzel.
Broadway veteran Linda Hopkins passed away on April 10, 2017 at 92, Deadline reports. Hopkins won a Tony Award in 1972 for her performance in the musical Inner City, but was best known for her one-woman show Bessie And Me, a tribute to singer Bessie Smith. She left no immediate survivors.
John Warren Geils
J. Geils Band founder John Warren Geils passed away on April 11, 2017 at 71 at his Groton, Mass., home. “At approximately 4 p.m., Groton Police responded to a home on Graniteville Road for a well-being check,” Groton Police said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “Upon arrival to the house, police located a man who was unresponsive. He was declared dead at the scene … The Groton Police Department is investigating the death, as is standard procedure in all unattended deaths, however foul play is not suspected at this time.”
Police said Geils likely died of natural causes.
Founding Jamiroquai keyboardist Toby Smith died on April 12, 2017 at 46 years old, the band confirmed on Facebook.
Lead singer Jay Kay wrote, “Yesterday, I found out the news I was hoping, and truly believed, would never happen, that my dear friend Toby, had passed away. My heart hangs so heavy with grief and pain, that I have found it difficult to write anything about this up to now … Toby had fought this voracious illness with his own indefatigable and stubborn brand of spirit and courage for a very long time, and until fairly recently, had shown all the signs of beating it, only for it to take him away so cruelly from his wife, his children, his relations and his many friends.”
“But it has also taken him away from the millions of people who have enjoyed his music, the music I had the privilege of writing with him, the music that has brought joy and happiness to people’s hearts across the whole planet for so long, and the music that leaves an indelible and everlasting legacy for all of us,” Kay continued. “This is my only solace at this most heartbreaking moment.”
TMZ reports that Smith had been suffering from cancer for a long time but kept his “dire condition” from his bandmates, who reportedly believed he’d been in remission.
Former bassist Stuart Zender posted a heartfelt missive on Instagram, writing, “I love you so much. My big brother Toby crossed over to the other side last night. All my fondest memories are of him and the band that we created. The most talented musician I have ever had the honor to make music with. There will never be another like you Toby. Your light will shine on eternally. Thank you for making mine and everyone’s life so bright. I celebrate your love and life! Rest in Love.” Zender also posted a moving video tribute to his friend.
Comedian and Chappelle’s Show star Charlie Murphy lost his battle with leukemia on April 12, 2017 at 57 years old. Only his closest family knew of his illness and its severity.
The older brother of actor and comedian Eddie Murphy, Charlie wrote for several of Eddie’s films, Variety reports, including Vampire In Brooklyn (1995) and Norbit (2007). Charlie was slated to appear on the Starz series Power and was an accomplished voiceover actor, lending his pipes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Boondocks, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In his standup career, he gave former Saturday Night Live star Jay Pharoah his big break as an opening act for a weekend he performed in New York City. He toured with live greats including Eddie Griffin and Cedric The Entertainer, People reports.
Charlie’s family told Entertainment Weekly in a statement, “Our hearts are heavy with the loss today of our son, brother, father, uncle, and friend Charlie. Charlie filled our family with love and laughter, and there won’t be a day that goes by that his presence will not be missed. Thank you for the outpouring of condolences and prayers. We respectfully ask for privacy during this time of great loss for all of us.”
Comedians including Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, and Dane Cook all mourned the loss, as well as Hollywood heavyweights Spike Lee and Ice Cube. Even the United States Department of Defense paid their respects to Charlie, tweeting, “Fair winds & following seas to @USNavy veteran & comedian @CharlieMurphy who lost his battle with leukemia today at the age of 57. “
Charlie is survived by his three children. His wife, Tisha Taylor, with whom he shared two of his children, passed away from cervical cancer in 2009.
Motown songwriter and frequent Stevie Wonder collaborator Sylvia Moy died at 78 years old on April 14, 2017 — the same day Wonder received the inaugural ASCAP Key Of Life Award, Billboard reported. Moy worked with Wonder on hits including “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” “My Cherie Amour,” and “I Was Made To Love Her.” She also is credited on “This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)” by the Isley Brothers and “It Takes Two” by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston. She’s a six-time Grammy nominee and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2009.
Sony/ATV, the publishers of Moy’s Motown tracks, told Billboard in a statement, “We are extremely sad to hear about the death of Sylvia Moy, whose songwriting played an important part in Motown’s history, including its influence on Stevie Wonder’s career. Her songwriting versatility is also evident in songs including ‘It Takes Two’ and ‘This Old Heart Of Mine.’ She additionally broke down barriers as one of Motown’s first ever female producers. Her classic songs will live on forever.”
Troubled former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez took his own life at 27 on April 19, 2017. The New York Post reports that corrections officers found Hernandez, who’d hung himself with a bedsheet, at approximately 3:00 a.m. in his cell of the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass.
“An investigation into the death by the State Police Detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office and Department of Correction investigators found cardboard jammed into the door tracks of his single-inmate cell to impede entry into the cell,” Massachusetts District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said in a statement to the Daily Mail. “There were no signs of a struggle, and investigators determined that Mr. Hernandez was alone at the time of the hanging … Mr. Hernandez was locked in his cell about 8 p.m. and no one entered the cell until a correction officer observed him at 3:03 a.m. and forced his way through the impeded door to render aid.”
The Daily Mail reported that Hernandez left behind several suicide notes, including one for his four-year-old daughter, one for his fiancee, and one for his alleged gay lover in prison.
Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the 2015 murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player who was dating Hernandez’s fiancee’s sister. Just five days before his suicide, Hernandez was found not guilty of a 2012 double murder that allegedly started over a spilled beverage.
Cuba Gooding, Sr.
Singer Cuba Gooding, Sr., father of Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr., was found dead in his car on April 20, 2017. He was 72 years old. He was the singer of The Main Ingredient, who had a hit with “Everybody Plays The Fool” in 1972. His cause of death is still under investigation, Fox News reported, but an overdose is suspected as drugs and paraphernalia were found in his vehicle.
Hell’s Kitchen executive chef Paulie Giganti was found dead in his Philadelphia apartment on April 20, 2017. He was 36 years old.
Philadelphia Department of Health spokesman James Garrow told Philly.com, “It is an accidental death by drug intoxication … [The] office does not release the type of drug involved or whether it was a prescription drug.”
Giganti competed on Season 16 of Fox hit and famously butted heads with cantankerous chef and host Gordon Ramsay. Giganti told MyTakeonTV.com of the experience, “I never went to school for cooking. I was going to be an engineer. I just wanted to see how I stacked up against other guys, like ‘school-y’ guys and other people. I was basically doing it as a measuring stick on myself. I didn’t care about any preconceived fears and notions. I just wanted to see how I could cook against other trained chefs … I’ll look back on things with a smile. The whole experience was a good life experience. I was happy to do it, and it was cool.”
Actor and writer Trustin Howard, also known as Slick Slavin, passed away on April 20, 2017, after complications from a fall, Variety reported. Howard was 93 years old. A man of many talents, Howard wrote, sang, and acted in variety shows, starting when he was just 15 years old. After enlisting and serving in the Army, Howard starred in Speed Crazy (1959), Invasion Of The Star Creatures (1962), and Philbert (Three’s A Crowd) (1963). He was honored with a lifetime membership of the Writers Guild Of America and is a member of the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame for his music. Howard is survived by three grandchildren, two siblings, a brother-in-law, and a sister-in-law.
Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi star Erin Moran was found dead in her home at age 56 on Saturday, April 22, 2017.
Sheriff Rod Seelye and Coroner Gary Gilley of Harrison County, Indiana, where Moran lived, said in a statement, “A subsequent autopsy revealed that Mrs. [sic] Moran likely succumbed to complications of stage 4 cancer. Standard toxicology tests were performed and the results are pending however no illegal narcotics were found at the residence.”
Child-actor advocate Paul Petersen told the New York Post that Moran was undergoing chemotherapy for throat cancer when she died. “She was in treatment and it was not going well,” he said.
Moran’s life spiraled after her stardom began to fade, and she and her husband Steven Fleischman lived in a trailer park towards the end of her life. A source told People that Moran relied on a feeding tube in her final days.
Her Joanie Loves Chachi co-star Scott Baio paid tribute to Moran on Twitter. “May people remember Erin for her contagious smile, warm heart, and animal-loving soul,” Baio tweeted. “I always hoped she could find peace in her life. God has you now, Erin.”
Michael Mantenuto, who starred in Disney’s Miracle (2004), died of an apparent suicide on April 24, 2017. He was just 35 years old.
TMZ reports that Mantenuto joined the Army in 2010 and was deployed for Operation Inherent Resolve, which fought ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Mantenuto was a decorated Green Beret in the Special Forces. Sources close to Mantenuto told TMZ that he was changed after his last deployment, saying, “Something happened over there. He saw something.”
The New York Daily News reports that Mantenuto is survived by wife Kati, daughter Ava, son Leo, and his parents Joseph and Kerry. The Army is investigating his death.
Oscar-winning director, screenwriter, and producer Jonathan Demme died on April 26, 2017, at 73 years old after a battle with esophageal cancer, Deadline reported.
Demme won an Oscar for directing The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and was widely acclaimed for Philadelphia (1993) and Rachel Getting Married (2008).
Bruce Springsteen, who won an Oscar, Golden Globe, and Grammy for “Streets Of Philadelphia,” which he wrote and performed for the Philadelphia (1993) soundtrack, paid tribute to Demme on his website, writing, “Over here on E Street, we’re deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Jonathan Demme. He was an inspiration for me, a beautiful filmmaker and a great spirit. Always smiling, always involved with the world and always pushing you to go for your best. He’ll be deeply missed.”
Tom Hanks, who won his first Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Philadelphia (1993), paid tribute to Demme with Springsteen at the Tribeca Film Festival, Variety reported. “The strongest union of our two names is from the motion picture Philadelphia,” Hanks told Springsteen. “God bless [director] Jonathan Demme. We just lost him.”
Christopher 'Big Black' Boykin
Rob & Big star Christopher “Big Black” Boykin died on May 9, 2017 at 45 years old, his rep confirmed to Variety. Boykin was the best friend and bodyguard to skateboarder Rob Dyrdek, and the pair chronicled experiences including adopting a mini-horse and attempting to break Guiness World Records together during the series’ 2006 to 2008 run.
MTV told Variety in a statement, “MTV is deeply saddened to learn the news of Christopher ‘Big Black’ Boykin’s passing. He was a long time and beloved member of the MTV family and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends at this time.”
Dyrdek was heartbroken about the loss, tweeting a photo with Boykin and writing, “My heart is broken. I don’t want write this post. I don’t want to believe that this is reality. I am so thankful for you.” He added, “We truly were brothers that lived an unexpected unforgettable adventure. I just can’t fathom that it would end so suddenly. You will forever be in my heart.” He followed with a photo of Boykin holding his daughter, captioning the snap, “I am so thankful for this moment… thank you for being an amazing human being and brother.”
TMZ reports that Boykin had been hospitalized for days before his passing for heart-related issues, with which he’d been struggling for a long time. Boykin reportedly had a defibrillator implanted in his chest, and the site reported that doctors struggled to resuscitate him for nearly 30 minutes when his heart stopped.
Boykin is survived by his ex-wife, Chris, with whom he lived in Plano, Texas, because of his health problems, and their 9-year-old daughter Isis.
Deadline reports that actor Michael Parks died on May 9, 2017 at 77 years old.
Parks got his big break in television in the 1960s with sitcom The Real McCoys, then starred as Adam in The Bible (1966). He appeared in various bit parts before his star turn as motorcycling loner Jim Bronson in Then Came Bronson in 1969. The show only lasted a season, but established him as a Hollywood bad boy (onscreen, that is). His next star turn wasn’t until 1986, when he starred in and directed The Return Of Josey Wales (1986).
He followed with the role of drug runner Jean Renault in Twin Peaks in 1990 before focusing almost entirely on movies, including From Dusk Til Dawn (1996), Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) and Vol. 2 (2004), Grindhouse (2007), Red State (2011), Django Unchained (2012), and Tusk (2014).
Parks is survived by wife Oriana and their son, James, as well as a daughter from his brief marriage to teenage sweetheart Louise Johnson.
DJ Robert Miles, best known for his trance hit “Children,” passed away on May 10, 2017 after a battle with stage-four metastatic cancer. He was 47 years old.
Miles’ longtime friend, producer Joe T. Vannelli, told the BBC, “The tragic news of the death of a very talented artist of our time makes me incredulous and upset. I will miss the fights, brawls, criticism, judgements but especially your talent in finding sounds and melodies unparalleled … I remember 1997 Brit Awards ceremony very well. Robert Miles was the best international newcomer award, introduced by Gary Barlow. Miles was the only one Italian artist winner in BA history. ‘Children’ is an instrumental and dance anthem, one of the most ever loved tracks. With Robert Miles a part of my life dies with him.”
Character actor Powers Boothe passed away on Sunday, May 14, 2017, at 68 years old.
Boothe’s rep told Variety that the actor, who had roles in Sin City (2005), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014), and The Avengers (2011), died in his sleep of natural causes.
Boothe won a Best Actor In A Limited Series Emmy for his haunting portrayal of Jim Jones in Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (1980). Other star turns for Boothe included Red Dawn (1984), Tombstone (1993), Nixon (1995), Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and HBO’s Deadwood.
Boothe is survived by wife Marlene Tochnal-Pennan, as well as sons Preston Allen, Reuben Travis, and Reginald Paul, and daughter Parisse. A private memorial will be held for Boothe in Texas, and a public memorial is being considered for the future. Boothe’s family requests that donations be made to the Gary Sinise Foundation, which supports first responders, veterans, and their families.
Legendary James Bond star Sir Roger Moore died on May 23, 2017 at 89 years old.
In a message posted to the actor’s Twitter account, his children, Deborah, Geoffrey, and Christian, wrote, “It is with a heavy heart that we must announce our loving father, Sir Roger Moore, has passed away today in Switzerland after a short but brave battle with cancer. The love with which he was surrounded in his final days was so great it cannot be quantified in words alone … We know our own love and admiration will be magnified many times over, across the word, by people who knew him for his films, his television shows and his passionate work for UNICEF which he considered to be his greatest achievement. Thank you Pops for being you, and for being so very special to so many people.”
The actor, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2003, starred in Live And Let Die (1973), The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), and A View To Kill (1985). He also starred in the television series The Saint from 1962 to 1969, and made cameos in subsequent adaptations.
Moore was married four times, E! News reported, first to Doorn van Steyn, then Dorothy Squires, then Luisa Mattioli, and finally to Kristina Tholstrup, with whom he remained until his passing. Deborah Moore, Geoffrey Moore and Christian Moore are his children by Mattioli; Moore was also stepfather to Tholstrup’s daughter, Christina Knudsen, who died from cancer in 2016.
Dallas star Jared Martin passed away on May 24, 2017, at 75 years old. The Hollywood Reporter reported that Martin suffered from pancreatic cancer at the time of his death, which occurred in his home in Philadelphia. He is survived by wife Yu Wei, whom he married in 2000, son Christian, daughter-in-law Liz Cole, and grandchildren Emilia and Charlie.
Gregg Allman, founder of The Allman Brothers band with brother Duane, passed away on May 27, 2017 at 69 years old in his Savannah, Georgia, home. In a statement on Allman’s website, his family wrote, “Gregg struggled with many health issues over the past several years. During that time, Gregg considered being on the road playing music with his brothers and solo band for his beloved fans, essential medicine for his soul. Playing music lifted him up and kept him going during the toughest of times.” The Hollywood Reporter claims one of those health issues was Hepatitis C, with which he was diagnosed in 1999, and that the rocker underwent a liver transplant in 2010.
Allman is survived by wife Shannon and children, Devon, Elijah Blue, Delilah Island Kurtom, and Layla Brooklyn Allman; three grandchildren, niece Galadrielle, and his extended family. Elder brother and bandmate Duane passed away in a motorcycle accident in 1971.
Allman’s ex-wife Cher, to whom he was briefly married from 1975 to 1977, mourned him on Twitter with their pet names for one another, writing, “I’ve tried … words are impossible. Gui Gui. Forever, Chooch.”
Michael Nance, a contestant on The Bachelorette in 2012, was found dead in the early morning of May 29, 2017 in Austin, Texas. An immediate cause of death wasn’t known, TMZ reported, but police also noted that it wasn’t suspicious. He was 31 years old.
Nance had previously opened up on The Bachelor about his past struggles with addiction, saying in his introductory reel (via People), “Right now, life is good, but I haven’t put as much focus on my love life because the way I was a couple years ago, no one would have wanted to be around me. I was addicted to prescription pain medicine. It all starts out fun and then somewhere along the road, it just turned into something else. It’s a vicious cycle and it ate away at me for a long time … I’m almost two years sober, now, and it’s not that easy — you have to completely change your way of living. But my life is really, really good today.”
Emily Maynard, who sent Nance packing in season 8 of the ABC hit, tweeted, “So sad waking up to the news about Michael Nance. Such a kind heart with so much talent. Sending prayers and love to his family and friends.” Former Bachelor Sean Lowe also paid his respects, writing, “My heart breaks to hear about the passing of my friend Michael Nance. He was a sweet man with a kind soul. We all loved him on Bachelorette.”
Robert Michael Morris
The Comeback star Robert Michael Morris passed away on May 30, 2017 at 77 years old. The Comeback writer Michael Patrick King told Deadline of Morris, “Robert Michael Morris was an inspiration to write for and to be around. His creativity was only matched by the joy and gratefulness he felt for each day he got to live his life as an artist.” Co-star Lisa Kudrow tweeted, “We lost Robert Michael Morris today.He left us with many wonderful gifts, most importantly, an example of what a truly good soul looks like.”
A cause of death wasn’t immediately known.
Soundgarden and Audioslave singer Chris Cornell took his own life on May 18, 2017. He was 52 years old when his body was found hanged in a Detroit hotel room.
Cornell’s wife, Vicky, didn’t believe that the singer was depressed, but told People he’d struggled with addiction and previously relapsed in 2009. She believes prescription drugs in his system altered his mental state as she described his harrowing final moments. Cornell reportedly woke Vicky, who was at home, by remotely turning the lights in their house off and on with his phone. She called him and said he was speaking unclearly and grew defensive when she asked what drugs he’d taken. He hung up on her, and when he didn’t respond when she called back, she sent his bodyguard to his hotel room. It was too late. Vicky said she believes Cornell’s use of the prescription drug Ativan led to his death; the night of his suicide he’d reportedly doubled his dose of the medication.
“My Chris was happy, loving, caring and warm… This was not a depressed man—it wasn’t like I missed that. What I missed were the signs of addiction,” she said, adding, “He didn’t want to die. If he was of sound mind, I know he wouldn’t have done this.”
Adam West, the original onscreen Batman from the 1960s hit TV series, died at 88 years old on June 9, 2017, after a quiet, brief battle with leukemia, Variety reported.
His family said in a statement, “Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight, and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero.”
West is survived by his wife, Marcelle, and six children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
West previously admitted to Variety that he found it hard to find work after starring as the kitschy Bruce Wayne, but he maintained a sense of humor about it, going into voice acting (with roles on SpongeBob Squarepants, Kim Possible, and playing himself in Family Guy) and cameos on shows such as 30 Rock and The George Lopez Show.
“Some years ago I made an agreement with Batman. There was a time when Batman really kept me from getting some pretty good roles, and I was asked to do what I figured were important features. However, Batman was there, and very few people would take a chance on me walking on to the screen,” he said. “And they’d be taking people away from the story. So I decided that since so many people love Batman, I might as well love it too. Why not? So I began to re-engage myself with Batman. And I saw the comedy. I saw the love people had for it, and I just embraced it.”
Mobb Deep co-founder Prodigy died at 42 on June 20, 2017, Rolling Stone reported. The rapper’s publicist said in a statement, “It is with extreme sadness and disbelief that we confirm the death of our dear friend Albert Johnson, better known to millions of fans as Prodigy of legendary NY rap duo Mobb Deep. Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined. We would like to thank everyone for respecting the family’s privacy at this time.”
Prodigy and fellow Mobb Deep rapper Havoc grew up in Queens and released their debut album, Juvenile Hell, in 1993, but the group didn’t make big waves until its follow-up release, 1995’s The Infamous, which featured their classic “Shook Ones Pt. II.” Mobb Deep continued releasing music until 2014; Prodigy released several solo efforts, most recently 2017’s Hegelian Dialectic (The Book of Revelation).
Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington committed suicide by hanging on July 20, 2017 at age 41. His housekeeper discovered his body just as the singer was preparing to leave to go on tour. TMZ reported that his home was free of any illegal or prescription drugs, but that a partially empty bottle of alcohol was present in his bedroom. Bennington struggled with substance abuse and depression for years and was open about his issues, many of which stemmed from being sexually abused in his childhood.
Linkin Park cancelled its tour in light of the news and created a tribute site in Bennington’s memory, writing, “Our hearts are broken… We’ve seen an outpouring of love and support, both public and private, from around the world. Talinda and the family appreciate it, and want the world to know that you were the best husband, son, and father; the family will never be whole without you. Talking with you about the years ahead together, your excitement was infectious. Your absence leaves a void that can never be filled… We’re trying to remind ourselves that the demons who took you away from us were always part of the deal. After all, it was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place… While we don’t know what path our future may take, we know that each of our lives was made better by you.”
Bennington is survived by his wife, Talinda, and six children.
Fresh Kid Ice
2 Live Crew founding member Fresh Kid Ice (real name Chris Wong Won) died July 13, 2017 of an undisclosed medical condition. He was 53.
The “As Nasty as They Wanna Be” rapper’s fellow 2 Live Crew member, Brother Marquis, said in a statement to Vibe, “I just got the word that my longtime friend and rap legend Fresh Kid Ice the Chinaman has passed away. I would like to say that I love him and extend my condolences to his family. He truly loved all of his fans. I’ll always remember and cherish all of the good times we had together and all of the history we made. I would like to express my true love for him.”
Another 2 Live Crew member, Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, tweeted, “My condolence [sic] goes out to the family Chris Wong Won Fresh Kid Ice of the 2 Live Crew who just passed away people we lost a legend.”
True Blood star Nelsan Ellis died on July 8, 2017 due to heart failure and withdrawal complications stemming from years of substance abuse, the actor’s family confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.
Ellis’ manager said in a statement, “Nelsan’s father has bravely agreed for me to share the circumstances of Nelsan’s heart failure. Nelsan has suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years. After many stints in rehab, Nelsan attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own. According to his father, during his withdrawal from alcohol he had a blood infection, his kidneys shut down, his liver was swollen, his blood pressure plummeted, and his dear sweet heart raced out of control. On the morning of Saturday July 8th, after four days in Woodhull Hospital, Nelsan was pronounced dead.”
The statement continued, “Nelsan was a gentle, generous and kind soul. He was a father, a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, and a great friend to those that were lucky enough to know him. Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life. His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.”
Nelsan was 39 years old.
George A. Romero
Zombie movie legend, director, and creator of Night of the Living Dead (1968) George A. Romero passed away on July 16, 2017, at 77 years old, Variety reported.
The horror icon reportedly suffered from lung cancer and passed away in his sleep. In a statement, his manager, Chris Roe, said Romero passed away “listening to the score of The Quiet Man, one of his all-time favorite films, with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero at his side. He died peacefully in his sleep, following a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer, and leaves behind a loving family, many friends, and a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time.”
John Heard, most famous for playing Tom Hanks’ rival in Big (1988) and dad Peter McAllister in Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), was found dead in a Palo Alto, Calif. hotel room on July 21, 2017, reported Variety. The 71-year-old was reportedly recovering from back surgery.
According to Variety, Heard is survived by a daughter. His son, Max, with actress Margot Kidder, died in December 2016.
Actor and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard died on July 27, 2017 of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), Variety reported. He was 73.
Shepard won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child and was acclaimed for his own performances as well. He was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Dashiell Hammett in Dash And Lilly (1999) and earned a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for The Right Stuff (1983). He published a novel, The One Inside in February 2017.
Shepard was engaged to Jessica Lange, for whom he left his first wife and son, from 1983 until their 2009 breakup. He is survived by three children and two sisters.
Veteran actor Robert Hardy, perhaps best known for his role as Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter franchise, the BBC’s All Creatures Great and Small, and several portrayals of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill—including Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), for which he won a BAFTA—died on Aug. 3, 2017 at 91 years old.
Hardy’s children released a statement (via the BBC), “Gruff, elegant, twinkly, and always dignified, he is celebrated by all who knew him and loved him, and everyone who enjoyed his work… Dad is also remembered as a meticulous linguist, a fine artist, a lover of music and a champion of literature, as well a highly respected historian, and a leading specialist on the longbow… He was an essential part of the team that raised the great Tudor warship The Mary Rose.”
Hardy is survived by daughters Emma and Justine and a son, Paul.
Comedy legend Jerry Lewis died on Aug. 20, 2017 at 91 years old.
Born Joseph Levitch in Newark, N.J., he made his debut at age 5 singing “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” in a hotel, Variety reported. By age 15, he began performing in a Buffalo, N.Y., burlesque house.
In 1946, Lewis met Dean Martin, with whom he partnered onstage and onscreen for a decade. When they split in 1956, they each went on to solo stardom, with Lewis’ biggest box office hit being The Nutty Professor (1963). His career took a downturn until Martin Scorsese picked him up for The King of Comedy (1982), which earned Lewis a slew of critical acclaim and helped him forge a comeback. He worked steadily until his passing.
Lewis’ career was not without controversy: He irked many when he said female comedians aren’t funny when they’re crude, and his act came under criticism in recent years for alleged homophobic and racist tones.
Aside from his slapstick, Lewis may be best known for his charitable work. The comedian could make anything funny, but took his cause seriously. He raised more than $2.5 billion for the Muscular Dystrophy Association through his annual telethons.
Lewis married singer Patti Palmer in 1944, and the couple had six sons: Gary, Ronnie, Scott, Anthony, Christopher, and Joseph (who passed away in 2009). Lewis is survived by his remaining sons, as well as his second wife, SanDee Pitnick, and their adopted daughter, Danielle.
Best known as the frontman of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, he and the band rose to fame in the ’70s with hits such as “American Girl” and “Breakdown.” As a solo artist, Petty’s biggest release was the timeless “Freefallin,'” which helped earn him revered spots in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the Traveling Wilburys and Mudcrutch.
According to Rolling Stone, “Petty’s romanticized tales of rebels, outcasts and refugees started climbing the pop charts” in the seventies. “When he sang, his voice was filled with a heartfelt drama that perfectly complemented the Heartbreakers’ ragged rock & roll.” Petty’s most recent release, Hypnotic Eye, debuted at No. 1 in 2014.
In December 2016, Petty told Rolling Stone that the band’s 2017 40th Anniversary tour would likely be its last. “We’re all on the backside of our sixties,” he said. “I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road.” According to the band’s website, that tour was scheduled to conclude in November 2017.
Comedian Ralphie May passed away in Las Vegas on Oct. 6, 2017 at just 45 years old. The funnyman, who rose to prominence on Last Comic Standing in 2003 and later appeared on VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club, was battling pneumonia for six weeks before his death from cardiac arrest, TMZ reported. May toured nationwide for years. He even performed the very night before his passing. He is survived by daughter April June May and son August James May.
Game of Thrones actor Roy Dotrice died Oct. 16, 2017 at the age of 94.
Dotrice had a brief but memorable role as pyromancer Wisdom Hallyne in the second season of the HBO series, but it wasn’t his only connection to the franchise. Entertainment Weekly reported that Dotrice read the audiobooks for George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. The narration landed Dotrice the Guinness World Record for most characters voiced by a single actor in an audiobook: 223 in the 33-hour first installment.
In addition to his Game of Thrones fame, Dotrice also served in the British Royal Air Force in World War II, during which he was captured and placed in a German POW camp. After the war, Dotrice had an illustrious acting career in theater, winning a Tony Award in 2000 for A Moon for the Misbegotten, as well as radio, TV, and movies, including starring as Leopold Mozart in Amadeus (1984).
John Dunsworth, star of cult hit Trailer Park Boys, died Oct. 16, 2017, at 71 years old.
Dunsworth’s daughter, Sarah, tweeted the sad news: “With heavy and broken hearts…our amazing husband, father and grandfather John Dunsworth has passed away. John left this world peacefully after a short and unexpected illness.”
Dunsworth also starred in the SyFy series Haven for five seasons and was active in local and community theater in his native Nova Scotia, Canada.
Project Runway star Mychael Knight died Oct. 17, 2017 at age 39.
Knight placed fourth in the third season of Project Runway and won the fan favorite award for his work on the series, eventually going on to do design work for Starbucks and launch his own clothing, lingerie, and fragrance lines.
TMZ reported that Knight was hospitalized for unspecified gastrointestinal issues and suffered from irritable bowel syndrome leading up to his death.
Gord Downie, lead singer of Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, died Oct. 17, 2017 at age 53. His family said in a statement, “Last night, Gord quietly passed away with his beloved children and family close by. Gord knew this day was coming–his response was to spend this precious time as he always had–making music, making memories and expressing deep gratitude to his family and friends for a life well lived, often sealing it with a kiss…on the lips.”
“Gord said he had lived many lives,” the statement continued. “As a musician, he lived ‘the life’ for over 30 years, lucky to do most of it with his high school buddies. At home, he worked just as tirelessly at being a good father, son, brother, husband and friend. No one worked harder on every part of their life than Gord. No one.”
Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in December 2015 but didn’t reveal his condition until May 2016. The Tragically Hip went on a farewell tour that summer, culminating in an emotional final show that August.
Renowned not only for his music, but also his charity work and activism, Downie was named the Canadian Press Newsmaker of the year for the second time after he died, remaining the country’s only entertainer to ever hold the title.
Scott Putesky, guitarist and founding member of the band Marilyn Manson, died Oct. 22, 2017 at age 49 from colon cancer, reportedRolling Stone.
Using the stage name Daisy Berkowitz, Putesky remained with Marilyn Manson until 1996, then moved on to perform with Jack Off Jill, Kiss Miss Pretty, and Three Ton Gate.
Following his death, former bandmate Marilyn Manson wrote on Instagram: “Scott Putesky and I made great music together. We had our differences over the years, but I will always remember the good times more. Everyone should listen to ‘Man That You Fear’ in his honor. That was our favorite.”
Robert Guillaume died Oct. 24, 2017 at 89 years old, Variety reported. The Benson star passed away peacefully at home of complications from prostate cancer.
Aside from his title role in Benson, Guillaume was also known for playing the acerbic butler on Soap, winning Emmy Awards for both series. He was also nominated for a Tony Award for his role as Nathan Detroit in Broadway’s Guys and Dolls revival in 1977. He appeared in various television shows throughout the 1970s, including Sanford and Son, Good Times, All in the Family, and The Jeffersons. In 1989, he landed his own series, The Robert Guillame Show, but the show was canceled after four months. He voiced Rafiki in The Lion King (1994), earning a Grammy for best spoken-word performance.
In 1998, Guillaume began playing a television producer in the show Sports Night. When he suffered a stroke a year later, his condition was written into the series to explain his absence. For years following his health crisis, Guillaume focused mostly on bit and guest parts on television and on voiceover work, eventually returning to the silver screen for small roles in projects such as Big Fish (2003).
Rock and roll pioneer Fats Domino passed away Oct. 25, 2017 at age 89, the Associated Press reported Born Antoine Domino, Jr., Domino was one of the very first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He sold more than 110 million records throughout his life, including rock standards “Blueberry Hill” and “Ain’t That a Shame.” His original 1956 recording of “Blueberry Hill” was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
Despite his rock legend status, Domino kept a low profile for most of his life, though he was a staple in his native New Orleans. Domino lost his home and most of his possessions, including three pianos and numerous gold and platinum records, in Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. He and his wife, Rosemary, had to be rescued from their house by boat.
Veronica Mars star Brad Bufanda died Nov. 1, 2017 at age 34. TMZ reported that Bufanda committed suicide by jumping off of a building in Los Angeles.
Family and friends of the actor reportedly received suicide notes, most of which expressed gratitude for good deeds. His death came as a shock to those close to Bufanda, who claim he never showed any outward signs of a struggle and that his career was on an upswing after a series of recent auditions.
Billboard reported that Knight’s magnum opus, which has been covered by a slew of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Carl Carlton, U2, and Love Affair, became a Hot 100 top 40 hit in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.
John Hillerman, who starred as Tom Selleck’s sidekick Jonathan Quayle Higgins III on Magnum, P.I., died Nov. 9, 2017, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 84 years old.
In addition to his Emmy-winning role of Higgins, Hillerman also appeared in movies, including Mel Brooks’ classics Blazing Saddles (1974) and History of the World: Part I (1981), Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), High Plains Drifter (1973), Lucky Lady (1975), Audrey Rose (1977), and A Very Brady Sequel (1996).
Rapper Lil Peep, born Gustav Ahr, died on Nov. 15, 2017, at just 21 years old. TMZ reported that toxicology results revealed his death was caused by an overdose of Xanax and Fentanyl, but that he had a slew of other drugs, including cocaine, painkillers, and opiates, in his system at the time of his death.
Lil Peep’s brother, Oskar, told People that he believed Peep’s overdose was an accident, citing that Peep was happy and psychologically healthier than his seemingly depressed public persona. Oskar reportedly believes Peep’s overdose was a result of taking a pill laced with other chemicals of which Peep was unaware.
“My brother didn’t take five Xanax pills every day, but he would take them and then post on Instagram about it,” Oskar said. “I wish it would have paid for him to be a little safer, but the world needed him to have superlative problems that he dealt with in superlative ways. Gus dealt with these problems much better than Lil Peep did, but people didn’t know Gus, and there’s a reason Gus doesn’t sell.”
Rock legend and AC/DC founding guitarist Malcolm Young died Nov. 18, 2017 at 64 years old following a battle with dementia, reported Rolling Stone.
AC/DC released a statement that said, in part, “With enormous dedication and commitment [Young] was the driving force behind the band. As a guitarist, songwriter and visionary he was a perfectionist and a unique man. He always stuck to his guns and did and said exactly what he wanted. He took great pride in all that he endeavored. His loyalty to the fans was unsurpassed.”
Malcolm’s brother and AC/DC co-founder Angus Young added, “As his brother it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life, the bond we had was unique and very special. He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever. Malcolm, job well done.”
The Youngs’ older brother, music producer George Young, passed away in October 2017.
Character actress Ann Wedgeworth died Nov. 16, 2017 at age 83 following a long illness, Variety reported. The Texas native moved to New York City after college and began working on Broadway, with her debut in Make a Million in 1958; she’d eventually win a Tony Award for best performance by a featured actress for Chapter Two in 1978.
Wedgeworth had an illustrious film career as well, starring in Scarecrow (1973) with Gene Hackman, Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) with Robert De Niro, and as Patsy Cline’s mother in Sweet Dreams (1985) with Jessica Lange and Ed Harris, which earned her a National Society of Film Critics Award.
Wedgeworth may be best known for her work on television. She had a recurring role on Three’s Company as divorcee Lana Shields, as well as roles on Evening Shade, Another World, and The Edge of Night.
Television star and Broadway veteran Earle Hyman passed away at age 91 on Nov. 17, 2017. According to Deadline, the classically trained actor’s career spanned a whopping six decades, most of which were spent on stage. Hyman earned a Tony Award nomination for his role the 1980 production of The Lady From Dubuque. His most famous role, however, was that of Cliff Huxtable’s father, Russell, on The Cosby Show, for which he earned an Emmy nomination in 1986.
Della Reese, who starred in Touched by an Angel, became an angel herself on Nov. 19, 2017 at age 86.
Her co-star, Roma Downey, told People, “She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer. Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people. She was a mother to me…”
Reese began her career as a jazz and gospel singer before turning to acting in the late 1960s, becoming the first African-American woman to co-host The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. She did lots of bit parts on television and became an ordained minister before her starring turn on Touched by an Angel, which ran from 1994 to 2003.
David Cassidy died Nov. 21, 2017 at age 67. The Partridge Family star had been publicly battling dementia and reportedly suffered from organ failure in the days leading up to his passing.
His family said in a statement (via Variety): “David died surrounded by those he loved, with joy in his heart and free from the pain that had gripped him for so long. Thank you for the abundance and support you have shown him these many years.”
Cassidy struggled with fame, most notably after 800 fans were injured and one killed in a stampede at one of his concerts in 1974. He battled alcoholism and was arrested for driving under the influence several times. He filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
He is survived by Partridge Family co-star and real-life stepmother Shirley Jones, half-brothers Shaun, Patrick and Ryan; son Beau Cassidy and daughter and Arrow star Katie Cassidy, who revealed his last words were, “So much wasted time.”
Jim Nabors, star of Gomer Pyle and The Andy Griffith Show, died Nov. 30, 2017 at age 87 following a year of declining health.
In addition to his television work—which The Associated Press points out brought the words “golly” and “shazam” into the mainstream vernacular—Nabors was also a staple on the variety show circuit and showcased his rich vocals in Las Vegas and Hawaii, where he had a residency.
In early 2013, when Washington state legalized gay marriage, Nabors tied the knot with his longtime love, Stan Cadwallader. “It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something,” Nabors said at the time. “And at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.”
“Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him,” Cadwallader said. “He’s going to be dearly missed.”
Johnny Hallyday, known as the French Elvis, passed away Dec. 5, 2017 at age 74. Born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet, Hallyday is credited with bringing rock and roll to France. BBC reported that throughout his 57-year career, Hallyday boasted 32 No. 1 albums, sold 100 million records, had four wives, made 34 movie appearances, and got 9.5 million people to tune in to his 2000 performance at the Eiffel Tower.
Steve Reevis passed away at 55 years old on Dec. 7, 2017 after suffering an unknown illness. Reevis, a member of the Blackfoot Native American tribe, was best known for his role as Shep Proudfoot in Fargo (1996), as well as his appearance in Dances With Wolves (1990). He also appeared in films including War Party (1987), Last Of The Dogmen (1995), Twins (1988), The Doors (1991), and The Longest Yard (2005). His television appearances included Walker, Texas Ranger; JAG, and Into the West.
Hip-hop attorney and podcast pioneer Combat Jack (born Reggie Osse) passed away of colon cancer on Dec. 20, 2017, Variety reported. He was 48 years old.
As an attorney, Osse represented Jay-Z, Damon Dash, and Roc-A-Fella Records. Osse also served as a marketing exec at MTV and as an editor of The Source before launching the pioneering hip-hop podcast The Combat Jack Show in 2011.
He announced his colon cancer diagnosis on the show in October 2017, telling listeners (viaVariety): “Internets, what’s up? It’s your man Combat Jack. In seven years of podcasting, I’ve never missed an episode. I got hit with some real life s**t. I was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. I was rushed to the hospital, had some pretty severe surgery. I’m on the mend right now. I’m about to jump on this journey to health with chemo and alternative medicine. Take care of your health. Your boy ain’t going nowhere though. We’re gonna keep doing this. Keep ricking with us. #RaiseTheBar #CombatCancer Let’s go!”
Heather Menzies-Urich, who played Louisa von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965) died at home on Christmas Eve 2017 at age 68.
Her son, Ryan Urich, told Variety, “She was an actress, a ballerina and loved living her life to the fullest. She was not in any pain but, nearly four weeks after her diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, she had enough and took her last breath on this earth at 7:22 p.m.”
Ted Chapin, president and chief creative officer of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, said in a statement: “Heather was part of ‘the family.’ There is really no other way to describe the members of the cast of the movie of The Sound of Music. And of ‘the kids,’ Heather was a cheerful and positive member of the group, always hoping for the next gathering. We are all lucky to have known her, and she will happily live on in that beautiful movie. We will miss her.”
Sound of Music co-star Kym Karath, who played Gretl in the film, tweeted, “I am filled with infinite sadness tonight. My precious friend and SOM sister Heather Menzies passed away this evening. Devastated.”
Actor Jack Blessing, who starred in Moonlighting, Murder One, The Naked Truth, and George Lopez, died at age 66 on Nov. 14, 2017, though the news was not confirmed until Dec. 26, 2017. He passed away in his Chatsworth, California, home after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
In a statement to Deadline, Blessing’s son, Ian, said, “Jack Blessing was a remarkable man, father, and husband. He lives on through everyone who loved him, and my family and I will be forever grateful for the sixty-six years he gave to this world.”
Kim Jonghyun, lead singer of K-Pop group SHINee, was found dead on Dec. 18, 2017 of an apparent suicide, Variety reported. He was just 27 years old, and it’s speculated that the high pressures of fame, especially in the hyper-critical K-Pop market, were to blame for his depression and hopelessness.
The singer wrote of severe depression in a suicide note that emerged days after his death, writing (viaVariety), “I am broken from inside. The depression that had been slowly eating me up finally devoured me and I couldn’t defeat it… Maybe I wasn’t supposed to come up against the world; maybe I wasn’t supposed to be known to the world; I’ve learned that’s what [makes my life] difficult. How come I chose that.”
Jonghyun was laid to rest in a Dec. 21, 2017 funeral. His record label issued a statement to Billboard: “Today, we warmly and peacefully sent off our beloved artist Jonghyun… Jonghyun’s final path was not lonely thanks to so many people’s love and comfort. Jonghyun’s music and passion, and all of the exceptional sides that he showed as an artist, will be in our hearts forever.”
Comedian, actress, singer, and The Dick Van Dyke Show star Rose Marie died Dec. 28, 2017 at age 94, Variety reported. The Hollywood legend spent a whopping nine decades in show business, beginning in Vaudeville as a toddler and moving on to film and television as an adult.
Actor Carl Reiner tweeted about her passing: “I was so sad to learn of the passing of Rose Marie. There’s never been a more engaging & multi-talented performer. In a span of 90 years, since she was four, dear Rosie performed on radio, in vaudeville, night clubs, films, TV, & Vegas & always had audiences clamoring for ‘more!!'”