Muhammad Ali

(Boxer)

17 January 1942 – 3 June 2016 (Aged 74)

Ali was a legendary American professional boxer, known as “The Greatest.” He is widely regarded as one of the most iconic sports figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Born Cassius Clay, and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Clay won a light heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, at the age of 18, before turning professional later that year.

In 1964, Clay became a world heavyweight champion defeating Sonny Liston in a major upset, at the age of 22. Shortly after, he changed his name from his self-proclaimed “slave name” Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali.

A three-time World Heavyweight Boxing champion, Ali set an example of racial pride for African Americans and resistance to white domination during the Civil Rights Movement.

Two years after winning his first heavyweight title, in 1966, Ali refused to be drafted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs, and his opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War.

As a result, he was arrested, found guilty of draft evasion, and stripped of his boxing titles. In 1971, Ali successfully appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction.

His actions as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam war made him an icon for the counterculture generation.

Ali is the only boxer to be named The Ring magazine Fighter of the Year six times. Sports Illustrated ranked as the greatest athlete of the 20th century, the BBC named him the Sports Personality of the Century, and ESPN voted him the third greatest athlete of the 20th century.

Ali fought in some of the most iconic fights in boxing history.  Among these was the “Fight of the Century” against Sonny Liston, the “Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier; and “The Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman.

Outside of the ring, Ali was renowned for his trash-talking and spoken word poetry, giving many memorable and entertaining television interviews during his career. He also wrote two autobiographies, one during and one after his boxing career.

Following his retirement from boxing in 1981, at the age of 39, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome three years later. Ali made limited public appearances, notably lighting the flame at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

In 2005, Ali received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the prestigious “Otto Hahn peace medal in Gold” of the United Nations Association of Germany for his work with the US civil rights movement and the United Nations.

In his final years, Ali was cared for by his family, ultimately dying on June 3, 2016, in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the age of 74. The 1996 documentary When We Were Kings, about the Rumble in the Jungle, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Prince

(Singer)

7 June 1958 – 21 April 2016 (Aged 57)

Prince was an iconic American singer-songwriter, best known hit songs, such as “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” and “Let’s Go Crazy.”

Known for his flamboyant stage presence, extravagant fashion sense and vocal range, Prince was a gifted musician, a guitar virtuoso, also skilled at playing the drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, and synthesizer.

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Prince wrote his first song at the age of seven. He signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records at the age of 17 and released his debut album For You in 1978.

In 1984, he released Purple Rain, the soundtrack album to his film debut, with his backup band which he called the Revolution. It became his most critically and commercially successful album, selling over 20 million copies.

In 1993, during a contractual dispute, Prince changed his stage name to a symbol and began releasing new albums at a faster rate to remove himself from contractual obligations with Warner Bros.

In 2000, he began referring to himself as “Prince” again, after which he went on to release a further 16 albums. In 2004, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In December 2015, his final album was released on the Tidal streaming service.

Five months later, at the age of 57, Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose at his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Minnesota.

Prince is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, selling over 100 million records worldwide. He won eight Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award for Purple Rain.

David Bowie

(Singer)

8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016 (Aged 69)

Bowie was a celebrated English singer, songwriter, and actor. A leading figure in the music industry, Bowie is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

Among his most famous songs are “Space Oddity,” “Heroes,” “Rebel Rebel,” “and “Life on Mars?” His career was marked by reinvention, notably his character Ziggy Stardust, with his music having a lasting impact on popular music.

In 1963, Bowie started his professional career as a musician, with “Space Oddity” becoming his first top-five single in July 1969. He re-emerged in 1972 with his androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

In the early 1980s, Bowie achieved commercial success with “Ashes to Ashes”, “Under Pressure”, in a collaboration with Queen, and the album Let’s Dance.

Among the films he starred in are Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,  Labyrinth, The Last Temptation of Christ, and The Prestige.

In 1996, Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His last live performance came at a charity event in 2006.

He died of liver cancer in January 2016 at the age of 69, two days after the release of his final album,  Blackstar.

Over the course of his career, Bowie sold over 140 million albums worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

Zsa Zsa Gabor

(Actress)

6 February 1917 – 18 December 2016 (Aged 99)

Gabor was a Hungarian-American actress and socialite. Her sisters were actresses Eva and Magda Gabor.

In 1936, Gabor was crowned as Miss Hungary, having begun her stage career in Vienna, before emigrating from Hungary to the United States in 1941.

In America, Gabor became a sought-after actress for her European style, where her first film role was in Lovely to Look At. Among the films she starred in were, Death of a Scoundrel, We’re Not Married!, The Girl in the Kremlin, and Moulin Rouge

Outside her film career, Gabor was renowned for her lavish Hollywood lifestyle, glamorous personality, and her nine marriages. Among Gabor’s nine husbands, are hotel magnate Conrad Hilton and actor George Sanders.

In her later years, Gabor suffered many health issues, after being in a car crash on Sunset Boulevard, she was partially paralyzed and reliant on a wheelchair for mobility. She also survived strokes in 2005 and 2007 and underwent multiple surgeries.

Gabor died at the age of 99 of cardiac arrest while in a coma on December 18, 2016, fifty days shy of her 100th birthday.

Alan Rickman

(Actor)

21 February 1946 – 14 January 2016 (Aged 69)

Rickman was a much-loved English actor, best known for his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series.

A member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, having trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. His first big break came in 1985, as the Vicomte de Valmont in the stage production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

In 1988, Rickman’s first film role was as Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Among his other films are Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, for which he received the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor, Sense and SensibilityLove Actually, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

In 1996, Rickman starred in the title role in the television film,  Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny, which won him a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award,

He was a patron of the research foundation Saving Faces and an honorary president of the International Performers’ Aid Trust, a charity that works to fight poverty amongst performing artists all over the world.

Rickman had a long-term relationship with Labour Party councilor Rima Horton, from 1965 until his death. The pair were married in a private ceremony in 2012.

Rickman died of pancreatic cancer on 14 January 2016 at age 69.

Fidel Castro

(Communist Revolutionary/President)

13 August 1926 – 25 November 2016 (Aged 90)

Castro was a Cuban Communist revolutionary and politician who governed the Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and as President from 1976 to 2008.

The son of a wealthy Spanish farmer, Castro adopted anti-imperialist politics while studying law at the University of Havana.

After participating in rebellions against right-wing governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, he planned the overthrow of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista,

After launching a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953, he was imprisoned for a year. Castro traveled to Mexico where he formed the 26th of July Movement revolutionary group, with his brother Raúl Castro and Che Guevara.

Castro returned to Cuba and led the Movement in a guerrilla war against Batista’s forces. When Batista was overthrown in the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Castro assumed control and became Cuba’s Prime Minister.

Under his administration, Cuba became a one-party communist state, while industry and business were nationalized and state socialist reforms were implemented throughout society.

The United States tried to remove Castro by assassination, economic blockade, and counter-revolution, including the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961. After allowing the Soviets to place nuclear weapons in Cuba in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis lasted for 13 days.

In 2006, Castro transferred his responsibilities to the Vice President and his brother, Raúl Castro. Fidel was the longest-serving non-royal head of state of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Opinions of him were polarized, with his supporters viewing him as a champion of socialism and anti-imperialism. His critics view him as a dictator who oversaw human-rights abuses and the impoverishment of his country’s economy.

In 1998, Nelson Mandela awarded him the Order of Good Hope, South Africa’s highest civilian award for foreigners. Castro died on 25 November 2016 at the age of 90. The cause of death was not disclosed.

George Michael

(Singer)

25 June 1963 – 25 December 2016 (Aged 53)

Michael was an English singer-songwriter who shot to international fame as a member of the band Wham!, before subsequently embarking on a solo career.

Among his best-known hits with Wham! are “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas” and solo hits such as “Faith”, “Fastlove”, “Careless Whisper”, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” in a duet with Elton John, and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” with Aretha Franklin.

Michael ranks as one of the best-selling British musical acts of all time, selling over 115 million records worldwide. His 30-year career saw him win three Brit Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, six Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards, and two Grammy Awards.

In 1998, Michael came out as gay and was an active LGBT rights campaigner and HIV/AIDS fundraiser.

He experienced much turmoil in his personal life, making headlines as he was arrested for public lewdness in 1998 and was arrested for multiple drug-related offenses after that time.

In 2005, the documentary A Different Story was released covering his career and personal life. On Christmas Day 2016, Michael was found dead in his home at the age of 53, after having been suffering from heart and liver disease.

Johan Cruyff

(Footballer)

25 April 1947 – 24 March 2016 (Aged 68)

Cruyff was a Dutch professional football player and coach, widely recognized as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974.

From the late 1960s, Dutch football rose from obscurity to become a football powerhouse with the philosophy known as Total Football coached by Rinus Michels and exemplified by Cruyff.

They led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup, with Cruyff received the Golden Ball as the player of the tournament.  He executed a feint that has since come to be known as the “Cruyff Turn”.

Wearing the number 14 jersey, he set a trend for wearing shirt numbers outside the usual starting line-up numbers of one to eleven.

Cruyff started his career at Ajax, where he won eight league titles, three European Cups and one Intercontinental Cup. In 1973, he moved to Barcelona for a world-record transfer fee, winning La Liga in his first season and named European Footballer of the Year.

After retiring from playing in 1984, Cruyff became one of the most influential figures in football history. His style of play and his philosophy has influenced countless managers and players, including Pep Guardiola, Frank Rijkaard, Michael Laudrup, and Xavi.

Ajax and Barcelona are among the clubs that have developed youth academies based on Cruyff’s coaching methods. This helped lay the foundations for the revival of Ajax’s success in the 1990s and Spanish football’s success at both club and international level in the 2000s.

In 1999, Cruyff was voted European Player of the Century. He came third in a vote by former Ballon d’Or winners to elect their Player of the Century. In 2002, Cruyff was also chosen on the FIFA World Cup Dream Team.

A heavy smoker from an early age, Cruyff underwent an emergency bypass operation in 1991, after which he gave up smoking. However, in October 2015 he was diagnosed with lung cancer, from which he died at the age of 68.

Nancy Reagan

(U.S. First Lady)

6 July 1921 – 6 March 2016 (Aged 94)

Reagan was an American film actress before marrying Ronald Reagan, and going on to become the First Lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

Born Anne Frances Robbins, after her mother remarried in 1929, she went on to take the name Davis from her stepfather.

As Nancy Davis, she was a Hollywood actress in the 1940s and 1950s, starring in films such as Night into Morning and Donovan’s Brain.

In 1952, she married Ronald Reagan and they had two children together. She was the First Lady of California, with her husband as Governor, from 1967 to 1975, and began to work with the Foster Grandparents Program.

In January 1981, Reagan became First Lady of the United States following her husband’s victory in the 1980 presidential election. Following years of lax formality, she decided to restore a Kennedyesque glamour to the White House.

In what is considered her major initiative as First Lady, Nancy championed recreational drug prevention causes, founding the “Just Say No” drug awareness campaign.

After leaving the White House in 1989, Nancy devoted most of her time to caring for her husband, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, until his death in 2004.

In 2002, Nancy was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Nancy Reagan died from heart failure at age 94 in 2016.

John Glenn

(Astronaut)

18 July 1921 – 8 December 2016 (Aged 95)

Glenn was a famous United States astronaut and politician. On February 20 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, circling it three times.

Before joining NASA, Glenn was a distinguished fighter pilot in World War II, China and Korea. He was awarded six Distinguished Flying Crosses and eighteen Air Medals.

In 1957, he made the first supersonic transcontinental flight across the United States. His onboard camera took the first continuous, panoramic photograph of the United States.

In 1959, Glenn was one of the Mercury Seven, military test pilots selected by NASA as the nation’s first astronauts. He received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, Congressional Space Medal of Honor and was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Following his retirement from NASA in 1964, Glenn went on to serve as the Democratic United States Senator from Ohio from 1974 to 1999.

In 1998, while still serving as Senator, Glenn flew on the Discovery space shuttle’s STS-95 mission, becoming the oldest person to fly in space and the only person to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs.

Glenn received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. He died at the age of 95 in 2016, having been the last surviving member of the Mercury Seven.