Photo by Mark Kettenhofen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL
9 August 1963 – 11 February 2012 (Aged 48)
Houston was an American singer and actress who is one of the best-selling music artists of all time and is cited as the most awarded female artist of all time by Guinness World Records.
Houston began singing in church as a child and became a background vocalist while in high school, before being signed up to a label at the age of 19.
Her first two studio albums, Whitney Houston and Whitney, became two of the world’s best-selling albums of all time.
She also became the only artist to have seven consecutive number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Among her most famous songs are “I Will Always Love You,” “How Will I Know,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” “One Moment in Time,” “I Have Nothing,” and “I Look to You.”
In 1992, Houston made her screen acting debut in The Bodyguard, before going on to star in other films, such as Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife.
After Houston’s 1992 marriage to singer Bobby Brown and her ensuing drug use, her career went downhill. She would make a number of comebacks, however, Houston would never again reach the heights of her early career.
Houston died from accidental drowning in a hotel on February 11, 2012, with heart disease and cocaine use being determined as contributing factors.
During her career, among hundreds of awards, Houston won two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, and in 2014, Houston was inducted to the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame.
5 August 1930 – 25 August 2012 (Aged 82)
Armstrong was an American astronaut world-famous for being the first person to walk on the Moon.
An aeronautical engineering graduate, Armstrong served in the Korean War, flying 78 combat missions during the conflict.
After the war, he completed his bachelor’s degree and became a test pilot at the NACA High-Speed Flight Station, testing many high-speed aircraft, including the X-15, with a top speed of 4,000 miles per hour.
In 1966, he made his first spaceflight as commander of Gemini 8, becoming NASA’s first civilian astronaut to fly in space.
In July 1969, Armstrong and Apollo 11 pilot Buzz Aldrin performed the first manned Moon landing, spending two and a half hours outside the spacecraft, while Michael Collins remained in the Command/Service Module.
As he stepped onto the surface of the moon, Armstrong famously said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Along with Collins and Aldrin, Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon. The three men were also given the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and a Congressional Gold Medal.
After resigning from NASA in 1971, Armstrong taught at the University of Cincinnati until 1979.
He also served on the Apollo 13 accident investigation, and on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Despite being one of the world’s most famous people, Armstrong largely shied away from the public eye, rarely giving interviews during his life. He died of heart problems at the age of 82.
21 June 1944 – 19 August 2012 (Aged 68)
Scott was an English film director best known for directing action and thriller films such as Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, and Spy Game.
The younger brother of film director Ridley Scott, they both received the BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Contribution To Cinema in 1995.
Despite many of his films enjoying considerable commercial success, Scott was never nominated for an Academy Award, with critics having been known to criticize his films for emphasizing style over substance.
In 2012, Scott committed suicide by jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles at the age of 68.
3 October 1925 – 31 July 2012 (Aged 86)
Vidal was a prolific American writer and intellectual, who was renowned for his wit and polished style of writing.
During his life, Vidal published over 200 essays and 24 novels, with his best-known works including The City and the Pillar, Julian, Myra Breckinridge, Burr, and Lincoln.
Vidal also ventured into politics, twice seeking election to political office. In 1960, he ran for the United States House of Representatives in New York, then, in 1982, he ran for the U.S. Senate in California.
In 1968, ABC hired the liberal Gore Vidal and the conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. as political analysts for the presidential-nomination conventions, with their passionate views leading to a long-running public feud between the pair.
Vidal won the annual Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation in 2009.
In 2010, it was found Vidal was suffering from a brain disorder often caused by alcoholism. He died of pneumonia at his home in the Hollywood Hills at the age of 86.
25 January 1938 – 20 January 2012 (Aged 73)
James was a dynamic American singer best known for songs such as “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” and “At Last.”
Raised without ever knowing her father, James was known as a gospel prodigy by the age of 5, singing in her church choir and on the radio. After some early success, James’s career took off after signing with Chess Records in 1960.
Her career saw her win six Grammy Awards, while she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001.
The story of the early days of Chess Records was told in the 2008 film Cadillac Records, with singer Beyoncè Knowles playing Etta James in the film.
During her life, James endured suffered from long-term heroin addiction. In her later years, her health declined as she suffered from leukemia, dementia and Hepatitis C.
She died in her California home at the age of 73.
3 December 1927 – 25 September 2012 (Aged 84)
Williams was a prolific American singer who has sold over 100 million records worldwide.
Having made his singing debut at age 8 as part of the Williams Brothers Quartet, Williams started a solo career in 1952.
His best-known song is “Moon River” from the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which won Best Original Song at the 1962 Academy Awards.
Among his other hit songs are “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Music to Watch Girls By,” “Butterfly,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” and his Christmas hit “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.
From 1962 to 1971, he hosted The Andy Williams Show, a television variety show which earned him three Emmy awards, as well as numerous TV specials.
In 1992, Williams opened the Andy Williams Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri, where he proceeded to perform sold-out concerts for many years.
Williams died of bladder cancer at the age of 84 at his home in Branson, Missouri.
22 December 1949 – 20 May 2012 (Aged 62)
Gibb was a British singer-songwriter renowned for his soulful voice, who gained worldwide fame as a member of the pop group the Bee Gees.
By the late 1970s, the Bee Gees were one of the biggest pop acts in the world, with hit songs such as “Stayin’ Alive,” “You Win Again,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” and “Saturday Night Fever.”
As a songwriter, Gibb penned hit songs for Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, Jimmy Ruffin, and Dolly Parton.
He also pursued a solo career but he was to never reach the level of success that he had with the Bee Gees.
In 1994, Gibb was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, while The Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Gibb died from bowel cancer at the age of 62.
Michael Clarke Duncan
10 December 1957 – 3 September 2012 (Aged 54)
Duncan was an American actor, best known for his role as John Coffey in The Green Mile in 1999, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination.
Among his other best-known films are Armageddon, The Whole Nine Yards, The Scorpion King, Daredevil, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Having wanted to act from an early age, Duncan was forced to drop out of the Communications program at Alcorn State University to support his family when his mother became ill.
For a number of years, Duncan took security jobs while trying to get some acting work in commercials in Los Angeles.
During this time, he worked as a bodyguard for celebrities like Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx, and The Notorious B.I.G.
When the Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed in 1997, Duncan quit working as a bodyguard. He got his big role the following year, starring as Bear in the blockbuster action film Armageddon.
Having struck up a friendship with Duncan while filming Armageddon, Bruce Willis reportedly recommended him to director Frank Darabont for the role of John Coffey in The Green Mile.
Duncan died following a heart attack at the age of 54.
26 May 1940 – 19 April 2012 (Aged 71)
Helm was an American musician and singer who achieved fame and success as the drummer and vocalist for The Band, and later, as a Grammy Award-winning solo artist.
Helm was known for his deeply soulful voice, exemplified in some The Band’s most successful songs, such as “The Weight”, “Up on Cripple Creek”, and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”.
The Band’s farewell performance on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1976, was the subject of the documentary film The Last Waltz, directed by Martin Scorsese. Though, they were to reform in later years.
The group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1989, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
In 1998, Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer, which caused him to lose his singing voice.
His cancer went into remission after treatment, and he eventually regained the use of his voice, leading to a career comeback.
In 2007, Helm’s comeback album Dirt Farmer earned the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album. In 2010, his next album, Electric Dirt, won the first Grammy Award for Best Americana Album.
In 2011, his live album Ramble at the Ryman won the Grammy in the same category. Helm succumbed to throat cancer at the age of 71. He is recognized as one of the greatest singers of all time.
21 September 1931 – 23 November 2012 (Aged 81)
Hagman was an American actor, best known for playing oil baron J.R. Ewing in the 1980s television soap opera Dallas and astronaut Major Anthony “Tony” Nelson in the 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie.
In 1952, he was drafted into the U.S. Air Force, serving until 1956, when Hagman returned to New York City and he landed roles in several plays. In 1965, Hagman landed his big break with a role in I Dream of Jeannie.
In 1978, Hagman earned a role in Dallas. The end of the 1979-1980 season, became one of the most famous cliffhangers in television history, “Who shot J.R.?” Hagman’s character survived his injuries and remained on the show until its end in 1991.
In 1992, after years of drinking taking its toll, Hagman was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and a malignant tumor was also found on his liver. As a result, Hagman underwent a life-saving liver transplant in 1995.
In 2012, Hagman reprised his role as J.R. Ewing in the television reboot of Dallas.
However, in November of that year, Hagman died from complications of leukemia at the age of 81.
22 August 1920 – 5 June 2012 (Aged 91)
Bradbury was an American author who is one of the most celebrated authors of the last century.
Among his best-known novels are Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Martian Chronicles. He who worked in a variety of genres, including fantasy, science fiction, and horror.
In 1986, Bradbury began producing adaptations of his short stories on his own HBO television series, a series which ran until 1992.
In recognition of his life’s work, Bradbury was awarded the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.
In 1999, Bradbury suffered a stroke that left him partially dependent on a wheelchair for mobility, before he died after a lengthy illness at the age of 91.
30 December 1945 – 29 February 2012 (Aged 66)
Jones was an English singer-songwriter and actor, best known as a teen idol as a member of the band the Monkees, and for starring in the Monkees TV series.
At the age of 11, Jones began his acting career after winning a role on the British soap opera Coronation Street.
He also received a Tony Award nomination for playing the Artful Dodger in a production of the musical Oliver! in 1963.
From 1966 to 1971, Jones was a member of the Monkees, becoming a teen icon.
The Monkees sold millions of albums with hits like “I’m a Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Daydream Believer”.
A keen horseman, Jones was after riding one of his favorite horses on February 29, 2012, when he complained of chest pains and was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead of a severe heart attack. He was aged 66.
28 May 1939 – 30 July 2012 (Aged 73)
Binchy was a much-loved Irish novelist whose literary works have sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, having featured on The New York Times best-seller list and in Oprah’s Book Club.
After graduating in 1960, Binchy worked as a teacher and news reporter for a short time, before focusing on her writing.
Among her best-known novels are Light a Penny Candle, Echoes, Circle of Friends, Tara Road, and Heart and Soul.
Binchy died of a heart attack at the age of 73.
Her final novel, A Week in Winter, was posthumously published in 2012.
31 December 1948 – 17 May 2012 (Aged 63)
Summer was an American singer-songwriter, who sold over 230 million records worldwide during her career, making her one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.
During the disco era of the 1970s, Summer came to prominence, with songs such as “Love to Love You Baby,” “I Feel Love,” “Hot Stuff,” and “Last Dance” leading to Summer coming to be known as the “Queen of Disco.”
Summer became the first artist to reach Number 1 on the United States Billboard 200 chart with three consecutive double albums.
She also charted four number-one singles in the U.S. within a 12-month period.
After a long-term battle with lung cancer, Summer died at the age of 63 in 2012.
In 2013, Summer was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.