Among the many truths that collectively bind the existence of all Human Beings, death is certainly the most ubiquitous. Perhaps the frontman from the 1960’s rock band ‘The Doors’, the late great Jim Morrison put it the most succinctly, “Nobody gets out of here alive.” A universally profound statement that expresses an undeniable truth that every living soul on earth, understands. Every year the world releases souls from this mortal coil and they traverse into the…well, who really knows for sure?
Among these passings include human beings who have left an indelible mark on this world that transcends mere anonymity. Artists, entertainers, scientists, engineers, physicians, civil rights leaders, trailblazers, the occasional politician, and in some cases, a unique combination of these things. We Americans, and the world community at large celebrate these people with good reason. We hold them in the highest of regards, while we enjoy the fruits of their work, contribution and consequence. These human beings inhabit the hallowed halls of the ‘Iconic’. As such when their ride through this world comes to an end, it immediately conjure reflection of their legacy. There are some years where it would seem that an inordinate amount of these iconic figures make their final check out. 2016 was certainly one of these years. The world lost a great many icons in 2016. Idiots Guide has compiled a reverential list of some, certainly not all, of the most notable passings with an emphasis on positive influence and contribution…
In 2016 we said Goodbye to…
Muhammad Ali (aka. Cassius Marcellus Clay): Jan 17th 1942 – June 3rd 2016 74
At a profound moment in young Cassius Clay’s life, he decided that he was the ‘Greatest’. He then embarked upon a journey in which he would go on to dominate the world(s) of Olympic boxing (1960 Summer Olympics Gold Medal), followed by a colorful conquest of professional boxing, as he climbed to the lofty height of world champion…on three separate occasions. Those accomplishments on their own would have made Ali a legend, however his principled anti-war stance during the Vietnam war, which included refusing to be inducted into the armed services, a stance that cost him untold millions of dollars, damage to his reputation at the time, as well as the unrecoverable loss of prime athletic years. This highly controversial political statement combined with his personal sacrifice, eventually transformed his boxing legend into that of political global icon. It would be difficult to fully account for Ali’s positive impact on the African-American community in the United States, in addition to the international community at large. Quite simply, Muhammad Ali with all his human being-ness, faults included, was one of the greatest human beings to have graced this world.
David Bowie: January 8th 1947 – January 10th 2016 69
David Bowie’s entertainment career spanned more than five decades. The English singer-songwriter’s influence and musical innovation was, and continues to be, felt the world over. His accomplishments were not limited to music, as he also achieved notable acting roles over the course of his illustrious career. Bowie status as a critically acclaimed musician lasted the entirety of his career, his thoughtful and engaging lyrics touched millions of souls, many of whom, this author included, are forever grateful. David Bowie gave voice to the ‘misfit’, he instilled a stalwart confidence in the souls of his fans, emotional spaces previously inhabited by shame, and doubt. Davis Bowie was amazing.
Prince Rogers Nelson: June 7th 1958 – April 21st 2016 57
An accidental overdose in April of 2016 made it possible for Prince to ride his ‘Little Red Corvette’ into the mysterious world of the hereafter. In the decades prior to his departure from this world, the generational talent we came to know as Prince, left an indelible mark with his music. Prince was a flamboyant musical innovator, flawlessly bridging sounds in unique fashion. His experimentation with guitar rock, psychedelic funk, rhythm and blues, neo-soul, combined with pop sensibility, created a groundbreaking sound that was uniquely…Prince. How great was his music? Let’s start with the fact that his records sales have exceeded 100 million, worldwide. Prince earned 7 Grammy Awards, 6 American Music Awards, 2 BET Awards, 2 Soul Train Awards, 2 NAACP Image Awards, in addition to a Golden Globe Award (2007), and an Academy Award for his soundtrack for his film ‘Purple Rain’ (1985), to top it all off. Prince was among the very best of all-time. A transformative musical artist whose contribution to this world will long be remembered.
Gene Wilder (aka. Jerome Silberman): June 11th 1933 – August 29th 2016 83
Gene Wilder was the kind of entertainer who literally could ‘do it all’. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin native went on to become a Hollywood legend using all of his transcendent talent. Wilder entertained audiences world-wide as a comedian, actor, screenwriter, film director, and author. He rose to world-wide fame with his performance in the 1968 film ‘The Producers’, a role that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Many film fans will remember his outstanding work in Mel Brooks’s film ‘Blazing Saddles’ (1974). Wilder also received several Academy Award nominations for his screenwriting and acting work on Mel Brook’s ‘Young Frankenstein’ (1974). Wilder’s performance in the role of Willy Wonka in the 1971 release of ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ is considered the very best of all-time, as his style of dark humor is unparalleled in film history. Personally, I have a deep affection for the four films he made with legendary funny man Richard Pryor, a stellar list including ‘Silver Streak’ (1976), ‘Stir Crazy ‘(1980), and of course the 1989 release ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil’. If you aren’t familiar with Gene Wilder’s work, now is as good a time as any to familiarize yourself. Gene Wilder was a one of a kind entertainer that the world will certainly miss.
Phife Dawg (aka Malik Izaak Taylor): November 20th 1970 – March 22nd 2016 45
The musical genre called ‘Hip-Hop’ exploded on the scene in the early 1980’s, and by the 1990’s was already moving into what is now widely considered it’s ‘Golden Age’. Among the plethora of talented acts of that generation, ‘A Tribe Called Quest’, stood heads and shoulders above the rest. Affectionately known as the “Five Foot Assassin”, Phife Dawg (aka Malik Izaak Taylor) was Trinidadian by descent, but all New York City in application. Taylor, along with high school buddies ‘Q-Tip’ and Ali Shaheed Muhammad formed the pioneering Hip-Hop trio ‘A Tribe Called Quest’, in which he was a bedrock member. The group’s 1991 release of the album ‘The Low End Theory’ was a runaway hit with Hip-Hop fans world-wide. The album was an exercise in all the best of Hip-Hop music, exhibiting cutting edge beats and lyrics aimed at soci0-political issues, especially with regards to the inner-city black experience. Quite simply, Phife Dawg was a legendary artist who left us far too soon due to a losing battle with ‘Diabetes Mellitus’, an ailment which resulted in a 2008 kidney transplant that he received from his wife. Rest in Glory…Phife Dawg.
Glenn Lewis Frey: November 6th 1948 – January 18th 2016 67
Fans of 1970’s super band ‘The Eagles’ know and understand the immense talent of founding member, frontman, and songwriter Glen Frey. His contribution to the global success of the Eagles is legendary. His voice talent in singing some of their most iconic songs such as “Take It Easy”,”Tequila Sunrise”, “Already Gone”, and “Lyin’ Eyes” is unforgettable. Not satisfied with the meteoric success of the Eagles, Frey went on to a very successful solo career after the band’s 1980 break-up. Glen Frey scored numerous hits in the post Eagles years including but not limited to, “The One You Love”, “Smuggler’s Blues”, “Sexy Girl”, “The Heat Is On”, and “You Belong to the City”. With the Eagles Frey won a total of 6 Grammy Awards, as well as 5 American Music Awards. Frey’s career in total saw no less than 24 Billboard 100 Top 40 singles, an amazing achievement by any standard. Not to out do himself, in 1984 he recorded a film soundtrack collaboration with Harold Faltermeyer which produced the super hit song, “The Heat Is On”, the title theme track for Eddie Murphy’s mega-hit action-comedy film ‘Beverly Hills Cop’. Quite simply, Glen Frey was a transcendent musical talent that the world benefitted from for decades. He will certainly be missed as his work is continually enjoyed, and admired.
George Michael (aka Georgios Panos): June 25th 1963 – Dec 25th 2016 53
George Michael’s career started with 1980’s era albums with the duo group ‘Wham’, performing alongside Andrew Ridgeley. ‘Wham’ records produced several pop chart hits in the early to mid 1980’s. However, George Michael’s solo career far exceeded the success of ‘Wham’. George Michael’s debut solo album ‘Faith’ (1987), went on to sell in excess of 20 million copies worldwide. Michael’s second solo album, the 1990 release of ‘Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1’ became one of the greatest concept albums of it’s generation. The album is widely admired for it’s deeply moving, occasionally haunting, always thoughtful lyrics. He combined these lyrics with eclectic, cutting edge, and stylistic studio sounds. The album presented a serious theme that had never been expressed previously in Michael’s music. Exampled with haunting tracks like ‘Praying for Time’, and ‘Cowboys and Angels’. ‘Listen without Prejudice’ is widely considered to be George Michael’s seminal musical artistic achievement, a claim to which I whole heartedly agree. Later in life Michael became an advocate for the LGBT community until his death this year of 2016. An amazing artistic soul. He’ll be missed.
Leonard Norman Cohen: September 21st 1934 – Nov 7th 2016 82
If for no other earthly reason, legendary Canadian singer – songwriter, poet, and novelist, . Leonard Cohen will be forever remember His work mostly explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and personal relationships. Cohen was inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cohen pursued a career as a poet and novelist during the 1950s and early 1960s, and did not launch a music career until 1967, at the age of 33. His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), was followed by three more albums of folk music: Songs from a Room (1969), Songs of Love and Hate (1971) and New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974). His 1977 record Death of a Ladies’ Man was co-written and produced by Phil Spector, which was a move away from Cohen’s previous minimalist sound. In 1979, Cohen returned with the more traditional Recent Songs, which blended his acoustic style with jazz and Oriental and Mediterranean influences. “Hallelujah” was first released on Cohen’s studio album Various Positions in 1984. I’m Your Man in 1988 marked Cohen’s turn to synthesized productions and remains his most popular album. In 1992, Cohen released its follow-up, The Future, which had dark lyrics and references to political and social unrest.
The Best of the Rest…
Arnold Daniel Palmer (September 10, 1929 – September 25, 2016) 87
Zsa Zsa Gabor (February 6, 1917 – December 18, 2016) 99
John Herschel Glenn Jr. (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016) 95
Carrie Frances Fisher (October 21, 1956 – December 27, 2016) 60
Joseph Henry “Joe” Garagiola Sr. (February 12, 1926 – March 23, 2016) 90
Gwendolyn L. “Gwen” Ifill (September 29, 1955 – November 14, 2016) 61
Patricia Sue “Pat” Summitt (June 14, 1952 – June 28, 2016) 64