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Tom Petty


20 October 1950 – 2 October 2017 (Aged 66)

Petty was a legendary American singer-songwriter, who was the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers from 1976 and a co-founder of supergroup the Traveling Wilburys in the late 1980s.

Among his most famous records are “Free Falling”, “American Girl”, “Learning to Fly”, “Won’t Back Down”, “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, and his duet with Stevie Nicks, “Insider”.

Over the course of his career, Petty became one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold over 80 million records worldwide.

In 1988, Petty joined Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne to form the Traveling Wilburys, whose self-titled album went triple-platinum and won the Grammy for Best Rock Performance, with hits such as “Handle with Care” and “End of the Line”.

In 2002, Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, while in 2005 he received the Billboard Century Award, the organization’s highest honor for creative achievement.

In October 2017, one week after the completion of the Heartbreakers’ 40th-anniversary tour, Petty died from cardiac arrest at the age of 66.

John Hurt


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22 January 1940 – 25 January 2017 (Aged 77)

Hurt was an acclaimed English actor whose screen and stage career spanned over 50 years.

Among the most famous films Hurt starred in are Alien, The Elephant Man,  The Field, The Harry Potter film series, Scandal, V for Vendetta, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

In the 1979 science-fiction horror Alien, a scene with Hurt at the centre of it is widely recognized as one of the most memorable in cinematic history.

Possessing a unique and distinctive voice, Hurt’s voice acting can be heard in films such as Watership DownThe Plague DogsDogville, as well as the TV series Merlin.

In 2012, Hurt was honored with the BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award, and he received a knighthood in 2015 for his services to drama.

Hurt died in January 2017 at the age of 77 after having been suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Dick Gregory

(Comedian/Civil Rights Activist)

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12 October 1932 – 19 August 2017 (Aged 84)

Gregory was an American comedian, civil rights activist, and writer.

In the 1960s, Gregory became a pioneer in stand-up comedy in which he mocked bigotry and racism.

Until 1961, he performed largely to black audiences at segregated clubs, after which he became the first black comedian to successfully cross over to white audiences.

Renowned for his political activism, Gregory protested the Vietnam War and civil rights injustices, resulting in his arrest on multiple occasions.

Gregory became devoted to health and fitness, following a vegetarian diet. He went on to become a university lecturer and an author of numerous books. He also became known for his conspiracy theories in his later years.

In 1999, Gregory was diagnosed with lymphoma, but refused chemotherapy and instead turned to diet and alternative treatments, with his cancer ultimately going into remission.

Gregory was married for over fifty years to Lillian Smith, whom he married in 1959, and had 11 children. He died of heart failure at the age of 84 in August 2017.

Chuck Berry


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18 October 1926 – 18 March 2017 (Aged 90)

Berry was a hugely influential American singer, songwriter, seen as one of the pioneers of rock and roll music.

Among his most famous songs are “Maybellene”, “Rock and Roll Music”, “My Ding-a-Ling” and “Johnny B. Goode”.

In high school, Berry was convicted of armed robbery and was sent to a reformatory from 1944 to 1947. Following his release, Berry returned to his hometown of St. Louis, working for his father’s construction business and as a janitor at a local auto plant.

Attracted to music from an early age, Berry’s big break came when he met Muddy Waters in Chicago in May 1955, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess of Chess Records.

As a result of this meeting, Berry recorded “Maybellene”, which went on to sell over a million copies and reached number one on Billboard magazine’s rhythm and blues chart.

By the end of the 1950s, Berry was an established star, with several hit records and film appearances and lucrative touring career. He had also established his own St. Louis nightclub, Berry’s Club Bandstand.

In 1972, Berry’s release of “My Ding-a-Ling” became his only record to top the charts. In 1986, Berry was among the first group of musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening.

Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” is the only rock-and-roll song included on the Voyager Golden Records, two phonograph records aboard both Voyager spacecraft launched into space in 1977.

In 1984, Berry was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Rolling Stone magazine’s “greatest of all time” lists have ranked Berry fifth on its 2004 and 2011 lists of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. He died of cardiac arrest at the age of 90.

Jerry Lewis


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16 March 1926 – 20 August 2017 (Aged 91)

Lewis, nicknamed “The King of Comedy”, was an American comedian, actor and humanitarian, whose career spanned across eight decades.

Born in New Jersey, Lewis met singer Dean Martin in 1945, leading to the creation of a popular slapstick comedy act, performing in nightclubs, and opening the way to many television and film roles.

Lewis starred in, wrote, and directed numerous films, such as Rock-A-Bye BabyCinderfellaThe Ladies’ ManIt’s Only MoneyThe Nutty Professor, and The Disorderly Orderly.

As a solo performer and as part of the groundbreaking partnership Martin and Lewis, Lewis was voted Hollywood’s top box-office draw from 1951 to 1965.

In his personal life, Lewis spent over 50 years as national chairman and spokesman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and hosted The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon every Labor Day weekend for 44 years.

In recognition of his work for Muscular Dystrophy, Lewis was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, and for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, he was given a Jefferson Awards annual award in 1978.

In 1997, Lewis was given the American Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. Lewis died from heart disease at the age of 91.

Sam Shepard


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5 November 1943 – 27 July 2017 (Aged 73)

Shepard was a renowned American actor, author, playwright, and director whose career spanned half a century.

Responsible for writing 44 plays, as well as many more short stories and essays, Shepard has won ten Obie Awards, the most won by any writer or director.

In 1979, Shepard received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Buried Child and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff in 1983.

Among his most famous films are Steel MagnoliasThe Right Stuff, The Pelican BriefBlack Hawk DownThe NotebookFair Game, and Blackthorn.

In 1982, while filming Frances, Shepard met co-star Jessica Lange, who went on to become his partner for nearly 30 years and with whom he would have two children, he also had one from an earlier marriage to O-Lan Jones.

In 2009, Shepard received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a master American dramatist. He died from Motor Neurone Disease at the age of 73.

Charles Manson

(Cult Leader)

State of California, San Quentin Prison / Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

12 November 1934 – 19 November 2017 (Aged 83)

Manson was an American criminal and cult leader of what came to be known as the Manson Family during the late 1960s in California.

When the Manson Family began to form, Manson was an unemployed ex-convict, working as a singer-songwriter on the fringe of the Los Angeles music scene.

In July and August 1969, Manson’s followers committed a series of nine brutal murders. Most notoriously, the murder of actress Sharon Tate, who was almost nine months pregnant at the time. The horrific events became known as the Tate-LaBianca murders.

Family members were also responsible for other assaults, thefts, crimes, and the attempted assassination of United States President Gerald Ford in Sacramento.

In 1971, Manson was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of seven people, all of which members of the group carried out at his instruction. He was also convicted of first-degree murder for two other deaths.

Manson had been obsessed with the Beatles, and their 1968 album, known as the “White Album”. Manson adopted the term “Helter Skelter”, a song on the album, to describe a looming apocalyptic race war.

His followers, who were mostly young women, believed that the murders would help precipitate that war. A pop culture arose around Manson’s notoriety, which ultimately became an emblem of insanity and violence.

Manson was originally sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life with the possibility of parole after California invalidated the state’s death penalty statute in 1972.

In the end, Manson was never granted parole and spent his final years in the California State Prison. He died at the age of 83 in 2017.

Bill Paxton


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17 May 1955 – 25 February 2017 (Aged 61)

Paxton was an American actor and director, best known for his roles in films such as The TerminatorWeird ScienceTrue LiesApollo 13TwisterTitanicMighty Joe YoungU-571 and Tombstone.

An eight-year-old Paxton was in the crowd when President John F. Kennedy emerged from the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, Texas on the morning of his assassination on November 22, 1963.

Photographs of Paxton being lifted above the heads of the crowd are on display at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

Paxton’s starring role in the HBO series Big Love from 2006 to 2011 earned him three Golden Globe Award nominations. He was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

His final film appearance was in The Circle, which was released two months after his death. Paxton died from a stroke after heart surgery at the age of 61.

Graham Taylor

(Football Manager)

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15 September 1944 – 12 January 2017 (Aged 72)

Taylor was an English football player and manager, best remembered for his stint as the manager of the England national football team from 1990 to 1993.

The son of a sports journalist, Taylor found his love of football in the stands of the Old Show Ground watching Scunthorpe United. He became a player, playing at full-back for Grimsby Town and Lincoln City, before retiring through injury in 1972.

In 1976, Taylor won the Fourth Division title with Lincoln as a manager, before moving to Watford in 1977. He took Watford from the Fourth to the First Division in five years, where they were runners-up in 1982–83, and FA Cup finalists in 1984.

Taylor took over at Aston Villa in 1987, leading the club to promotion in 1988 and 2nd place in the First Division in 1989–90. In July 1990, he became the manager of the England team.

His England team were knocked out in the group stages of the 1992 European Championships, and after failing to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, he resigned in November 1993.

Taylor returned to club management in March 1994 with Wolverhampton Wanderers, before returning to Watford, leading them to back-to-back promotions and into the Premier League in 1999.

His last managerial role was as manager of Aston Villa, leaving it at the end of the 2002–03 season. Taylor served as Watford’s chairman from 2009 until 2012 where he also held the position of honorary life president. He died of a heart attack at the age of 72.

Don Rickles


By Joseph Scandore / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

8 May 1926 – 6 April 2017 (Aged 90)

Rickles was a much-loved American stand-up comedian, actor, and author, who was best known as an insult comic.

Throughout his career, Rickles was a popular guest on and grew in popularity from numerous talk show appearances, including The Dean Martin ShowThe Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Late Show with David Letterman.

Among his prominent film roles included Run Silent, Run Deep, Kelly’s Heroes and provided the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story franchise.

In 2000, Rickles was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and his documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project won Rickles a Primetime Emmy Award in 2007.

Rickles died of kidney failure at the age of 90 in April 2017, at his home in Beverly Hills, California.

Remembering also…
Gordon Kaye (British Actor) (Aged 75)

Kaye was an English actor best known for playing womanizing cafe owner René Artois in the comedy series ‘Allo ‘Allo!

Erin Moran (American Actress) (Aged 56)

Moran was an American actress, best known for playing Joanie Cunningham on the television sitcom Happy Days and its spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi.

Charlie Murphy (American Comedian) (Aged 57)

Murphy was an American actor, comedian, writer, and older brother of comedian Eddie Murphy.

He is best known for his work as a writer and cast member of the sketch-comedy series Chappelle’s Show, and as the co-star on the sitcom Black Jesus.

Joost van der Westhuizen (South African Rugby Player) (Aged 45)

Van der Westhuizen was a South African rugby union scrum-half who made 89 test appearances for the national team, scoring 38 tries, playing a key role in helping South Africa win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

In 2007, he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame and later into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

In 2011, van der Westhuizen was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and raised awareness of the disease through his charity, the J9 Foundation. He died at the age of 45.

Malcolm Young (Australian Guitarist) (Aged 64)

Young was an Australian musician and songwriter, best known as a co-founder, guitarist, backing vocalist, and songwriter for rock band AC/DC.

In 2003, Young and the other members of AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He died having suffered from dementia in his final years at the age of 64.

Chris Cornell (American Singer) (Aged 52)

Cornell was an American singer-songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist for the rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave. His songs have sold over 30 million records worldwide and earned him two Grammy Awards.

Having struggled with depression for much of his life, Cornell was found dead in his Detroit hotel room at the age of 52, as a result of suicide by hanging.

Chester Bennington (American Singer) (Aged 41)

Bennington was an American singer-songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist for Linkin Park. He was also lead vocalist for the bands Dead by Sunrise, Grey Daze, and Stone Temple Pilots.

Selling over 100 million records worldwide, Linkin Park is one of the best-selling bands of all time. Bennington was found dead at his California home as a result of suicide by hanging.

Jana Novotna (Czech Tennis Player) (Aged 49)

Novotna was a professional tennis player from the Czech Republic, who won the women’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1998 and reached a career-high singles ranking of world No. 2 in 1997.

She also won 12 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, 4 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles and three Olympic medals. Novotna died of cancer at the age of 49 in November 2017.

Harry Dean Stanton (American Actor) (Aged 91)

Stanton was a renowned American actor, who starred in films such as Cool Hand LukeKelly’s HeroesAlienEscape from New YorkPretty in PinkThe Last Temptation of ChristThe Green MileAlpha Dog, and Lucky.