Let’s just agree that 2016 was a terrible year for all of us, and we can’t wait for 2017, so we can start afresh. The sheer number of stars who passed away, after shaping our views and lives is staggering, to say the least. Here is a list of the most prominent personalities from the world of music, movies and books whose deaths we’ll be mourning for a long time to come.
Only 10 days after 2016 began, the world lost David Bowie. We should have had an inkling of the terrible fate that awaited us right then, after the rock ‘n’ roll legend succumbed to liver cancer just a few hours after releasing his album, Blackstar. Bowie’s five-decade-long career in music has marked him as an innovator while his style statement made a deep impact on his fans. Since his death, his family has been selling his own paintings and private art collection in case you want to pick up a souvenir to remember Bowie forever and ever.
One word that will always be associated with Alan Rickman is “Always”, which was Severus Snape’s last word to Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series. Rickman was an accomplished stage actor and the recipient of Golden Globe and Emmy awards and his languorous way of speaking was scientifically proved to be ‘the perfect male voice’. His voice may be silenced by the cancer that took him away from us, but he will live on with us – always.
When Bob Dylan was announced as the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature this year, many music lovers questioned why the prize hadn’t gone to Leonard Cohen instead. Cohen’s sublime lyrics and ethereal voice spoke to people and moved them in ways few musicians could ever hope to do. From religion to sexuality to politics and man’s frailty, no topic was taboo for Cohen’s pen and velveteen voice. Hallelujah, his songs have already made him immortal. We hope Jikan (his Buddhist name) keeps playing wherever he’s gone to.
Harper Lee was famous for one reason only–the incredible Pulitzer-prize-winning 60’s book, To Kill A Mockingbird. Dealing with issues including race, class and justice in 1930s Southern America, the book even won her the Presidential Medal of Freedom for contribution to literature. Lee’s aura dimmed somewhat though, when she came out of her reclusive state to release another book, Go Set A Watchman, a first draft of her famous work which released as a sequel 55 years after the original. She died in February this year.
The singer-songwriter and master of multiple instruments was known for his extravagant dressage and larger-than-life aura. Winner of seven Grammys and a Golden Globe and an Oscar, Prince’s life was nothing short of well-lived. Eponymous with the colour purple for a long time, Prince’s life was multi-hued and also included a phase where he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol he referred to as ‘love symbol’ simply to avoid a copyright issue! Simply put, it’ll be a long time before we see another Prince.
We’ve all shared at least one meme featuring Gene Wilder without knowing who he really was. Wilder began acting as a boy to cure his mother’s rheumatic fever and make her laugh. Since then, he has acted in many plays and movies that have turned classics – his most famous role though was as Willy Wonka in the 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He, who’s written many books and promoted cancer awareness, passing away on August 29 this year from Alzheimer-related complications. But Gene Wilder continues to live on in our memes.
Mahasweta Devi’s social activism and hard-hitting books are her legacy to an increasingly divided India, where the difference in incomes between the rich and poor is steadily rising. During her lifetime, she worked for the upliftment of tribals from the poorest states in India and wrote scathing social commentary in works like Rudaliand Hajar Churashir Maa, based on the Naxalite movement during the 1970s. Decorated with medals during her lifetime, we seem to have forgotten the significance of her work after her death in July this year.
Her contribution to Indian arts is immeasurable. Her institute has trained over 18,000 students in traditional Indian dance forms like Kathakali, Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi so far and Mrinalini herself studied under the tutelage of Rabindranath Tagore at Shantiniketan. Apart from dance, she also wrote novels and short stories and was an active proponent of Gandhian values. Her most famous protégé, daughter Mallika Sarabhai, continues to expound her mother’s rich legacy.
His death on Christmas Day came as a shock to his legions of fans. After all Michael’s journey from his Wham! days to being one of the most popular and recognised singer-songwriters in the world made him one of the best-selling British acts of all time. For an entire generation who grew up listening to Faith and Father Figure among his other super hits, Michael was the living embodiment of the early LGBT movement after coming out as gay way back in 1998.
The actor’s death is a little difficult for us to come to terms with. Only last year, she dazzled us in yet another Star Wars movie, the franchise with which she will forever be associated. Princess Leia to many adoring fans, Fisher was also an early advocate of feminism – much before the term went mainstream. In later years, her openness in discussing her mental health issues, addictions and also an affair with Harrison Ford endeared her to a new generation of post-Star Wars fans. In the wake of her death, Ford has said that Carrie Fisher lived her life bravely. We couldn’t agree more.
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Cover Image Courtesy: Shutterstock.com; Images courtesy: By AVRO (Beeld En Geluid Wiki – Gallerie: Toppop 1974) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons; @icaroferracini/Instagram; By Rama (Own work) [CeCILL or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr], via Wikimedia Commons; By Yves Lorson from Kapellen, Belgium (Prince) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons; By Riccardo Ghilardi, Carrie Fisher (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons.