Well-Known Figures Who Passed In 2021
2021 has been a tough year for many of us, and sadly the world has lost a lot of good people since the beginning of the year. Many of them are famous celebrities who have touched our lives in one way or another whether they be film stars, comedians, baseball players, or whatever they might be.
Hank Aaron, 87
One of the biggest and oldest baseball superstars in the history of the sport, « Hammerin’ Hank » Aaron was a constant figure in Major League Baseball for 21 seasons as a player for Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. He was the first player to break Babe Ruth’s home run record in 33 years in 1974, coincidentally setting a record himself that would remain untouched for the same period of time.
Charles Grodin, 86
The lovable Charles Grodin sadly passed away on May 18, 2021. He was one of the most famous faces in American comedy and amused audiences with his deadpan sense of humor since the 1980s. He has appeared in quite a number of films, including famous ‘80s and ‘90s blockbusters such as The Great Muppet Caper, Midnight Run, and Beethoven.
Sarah Harding, 39
The talented singer, most known for being a part of the group « Girls Aloud », started her career in 2002 after she broke the small screen in the British reality show Popstars: The Rivals. The group’s single « Sound of the Underground » became the 2002 Christmas number one in the UK, and they even won the Brit Award, in an unforgettable moment when Harding grabbed the prizes and yelled « it’s about time! »
James Michael Tyler, 59
Before James Michael Tyler won the hearts of millions playing the role of Gunther in NBS’s hit comedy Friends, he actually worked behind the camera, starting out as a production assistant and assistant film editor. He was also an amateur musician and was a public advocate for cancer awareness. He also made appearances in small roles in numerous films.
Ed Asner, 91
While most widely known for his role as Carl in Pixar’s classic Up to modern audiences, Ed Asner has been around for a long time on TV. Asner won an Emmy award for his superb performance as Lou Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Asner also had roles in films and starred along with some of the biggest Hollywood stars of his time such as John Wayne.
Christopher Plummer, 91
Christopher Plummer rose to prominence as a stage actor, eventually making his way to the big screen. The illustrious actor went on to receive two Tony and Emmy awards appearing in 118 films, 17 stage plays, and 71 TV shows. His most notable film appearance before his death was in 2019’s Knives Out.
Larry King, 87
CNN’s legendary Larry King needs no introduction, being an international celebrity long before the internet even became a thing. The veteran TV and radio host had been around the news media scene since the 1950s and gained a reputation for his insightful and detailed interviews with famous celebrities and prominent political figures. King gained international acclaim after starting to host the Larry King Show in 1985.
Willie Garson, 57
A staple face on TV for decades, Willie Garson is mostly recognized for his role as Stanford Blach in the hit TV show Sex and the City. He was also a regular face in other hit TV shows like White Collar and Stargate SG-1. His popularity as Blach led him to appear in the subsequent high-grossing Sex and the City movies as well.
One of the few hip-hop artists whose career took off in the ‘90s in the early heydays of hip-hop, DMX’s death hit us hard. Born Earl Simmons, the prolific artist has a large body of work in his musical career with Grammy-nominated tracks like Get at Me Dog, Belly, and X Gon’ Give It to Ya.
Norm Macdonald, 61
One of the few comedians capable of delivering the raunchiest joke with a straight face, Norm MacDonald was another of America’s prodigal stand-up comedians. His jokes were so off the script that at one point he was taken off the SNL show as its anchor after hosting the show for three years.
Charlie Watts, 80
The legendary Charlie Watts needs no introduction to anyone who has had even a passing interest in music in the last 60 years. The drummer for Rolling Stones was the most level-headed of the bunch and probably was the main reason the band could stay together despite all the crazy antics and shenanigans of the other members.
Dustin Diamond, 44
Very few celebrities in this list have a colorful resume like Dustin Diamond who, aside from being a part-time actor also worked as a director, part-time wrestler, director, and musician. But he was best known in pop culture for his role as Samuel « Screech » Powers in the hit TV show Saved by the Bell. After the show ended in 2000, the actor took up stand-up comedy, finding success.
Ned Beatty, 83
Starting his acting career in the early ‘70s, Ned Beatty appeared in a staggering 160 films over a span of more than 50 years. The veteran actor also spent a considerable amount of time on TV as well, with roles dating back to the beginning of his film and acting career.
Dean Stockwell, 85
An avid actor since his childhood, Dean Stockwell spent an entire lifetime in Hollywood, growing up acting with Hollywood legends like Frank Sinatra, Errol Flynn, and more. Stockwell dipped his toes in both movies and TV shows in his life, but stage acting always remained his constant passion. His most notable Broadway work was the play Compulsion, which went on to receive a film adaptation.
Michael Constantine, 94
Another old school actor who passed away earlier this year, Michael Constantine had a lengthy TV career of nearly five decades. He is probably best known for his role as Gus Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The actor also won an Emmy Award for his role as Principal Kaufman in ABC’s Room 222.
Sonny Chiba, 82
The legendary Japanese actor Shinichi ‘Sonny’ Chiba died on August 18th due to pneumonia. Famous for playing the lead roles in most of the ‘70s and ‘80s Japanese action blockbusters, Sonny Chiba redefined the genre internationally by dialing up the violence and gore levels in martial art movies that had been mostly bloodless, even most war movies.
Dusty Hill, 72
An integral part of the legendary rock band ZZ Top since its inception, Dusty Hill played a key role in setting the band’s signature look of long beards and Stetson hats. Hill played the bass along with lead guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Drummond. The band was immortalized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Richard Donner, 91
While most of us enjoy movies and TV shows, we seldom appreciate the storyteller’s role in the success of these movies and shows unless it’s an award ceremony. Richard Donner is often considered by many as the pioneer of modern Hollywood blockbusters, being responsible for beloved classics such as Superman, The Goonies, The Lethal Weapon series, Maverick, and more.
Halyna Hutchins, 42
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or don’t read the news, you should already know about the shooting incident in the film set of Rust which tragically claimed the life of up and rising cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The incident is still being investigated, but the fact remains that the film world lost a very talented cinematographer way too early.
Robert Downey Sr., 85
The father of the extremely talented and beloved Robert Downey Jr, Robert Downey Sr was also an extremely talented actor of his time and the pioneer of experimental filmmaking in Hollywood. Appearing in blockbusters like The Twilight Zone, Matlock, To Live and Die in LA, Magnolia, and more, Robert Downey Sr made his directorial debut with the indie film Putney Swope.
Helen McCrory, 52
The beautiful, vivacious, and evergreen Helen McCrory passed away suddenly and tragically earlier this year leaving millions of fans in tears. McRory had a highly successful and diverse film and TV, career starring in films like The Count of Monte Cristo, The Queen, Casanova, James Bond’s Skyfall, the final three Harry Potter sequels, and more.
Jessica Walter, 80
Best known to modern audiences thanks to her appearances and voice work in hit TV shows Archer and Arrested Development, Jessica Walter had been around the film and TV industry for several decades. Her breakout role was in the 1971 thriller Play Misty for Me in which she starred opposite Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood.
Graeme Edge, 80
Drummer and last surviving member of classic rock band The Moody Blues, Graeme Edge was also the last of the original surviving member of the band. Starting out his musical career in 1964, Edge made his bones in the band’s most iconic and popular songs like Nights in White Satin and Tuesday Afternoon.
Cloris Leachman, 94
One of the most versatile actresses of her time, Cloris Leachman was particularly well-known for her comedic prowess. She made consistent appearances in both Hollywood and comedy TV shows such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Malcolm and the Middle. Her films appearances are numerous a well, starring in blockbusters like High Anxiety, Young Frankenstein, and The Last Picture Show.
Larry Flynt, 78
One of the oldest and most revered names in the American publishing industry, Larry Flynt is a name synonymous with Hugh Hefner for starting the Hustler magazine in 1974. He was a champion of the First Amendment, fighting numerous and extensive court battles to remove regulations put on the adult industry.
Peter Scolari, 66
With a career spanning several decades, Peter Scolari was known for playing memorable characters on the TV screen starting from the 1980s when he starred opposite Tom Hanks in the popular TV show Bosom Buddies. Scolari went on to star in other critically acclaimed TV shows like Girls, Newhart, The Twilight Zone, Fallen Angels, and more as well as voice in popular cartoons.
Hal Holbrook, 95
Five-time Emmy award-winning actor Hal Halbrook was a beloved face in the TVs and movies for decades. He was also a veteran stage actor, making his debut in 1954 with the hit one-man show Mark Twain Tonight. In seven decades, Halbrook appeared in countless films, plays, and TV shows.
Greg « Shock G » Jacobs, 57
Back when hip-hop was still trying to find its identity, Greg ‘Shock G’ Jacobs was already moving crowds with his rhythm and lyrics. The veteran hip-hop artist was part of the original hip-hop group Digital Underground, making his mark in the scene with his hit track The Humpty Dance.
Yaphet Kotto, 81
Though virtually unknown to modern film and TV audiences, Yaphet Kotto was one of the top supporting actors of the ‘70s and ‘80s. He first gained prominence after playing Mr. Big in the James Bond flick Live and Let Die. Some of his other memorable performances include the role of Parker in the genre-defining sci-fi classic Alien and as FBI agent Mosley in the action-comedy Midnight Run.
Art LaFleur, 78
Art LeFleur was one of those faces that most of us immediately recognize but can’t put a name on. The veteran actor had 170 film and TV show appearances over his career. But the kind face could equally harden up, giving him a thuggish look and making him a good fit for tough-guy roles as well.
Peter Aykroyd, 66
One of the most beloved Canadian celebrities of all time, Peter Akroyd has been a household TV name since 1979 after joining the cast of Saturday Night Live. (don’t get confused with his brother Dan Aykroyd) He was also a writer for the show, going on to be nominated for the Emmy Award with the rest of the SNL crew the following year. Akroyd also voiced Jake and Elwood Blues in the late ‘90s cartoon The Blues Brothers: Animated Series.
Tommy Lasorda, 94
Another baseball legend who died this year was Los Angeles Dodgers Tommy Lasorda, who died in his 90s after suffering a cardiac arrest on January 17th. This talented baseball player led the Dodgers to win two World Series championships, leaving a lasting legacy. His colorful personality also led to many TV and public appearances as well, always falling back to his cheerful and positive demeanor.
Prince Philip, 99
The spouse to one of the most prominent figures of the last and current century, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh went by many royal monikers in his lifetime. Born in Greece, Prince Philip hailed from Greek and Danish royal lineage. He got the title Duke of Edinburgh after marrying the current monarch of England, Queen Elizabeth II.
Gregg Leakes, 66
A popular crowd favorite of the hit reality TV show The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Gregg Leakes was a long-time cast member whose marriage and eventual divorce with his wife NeNe in 2011 was documented through the show for 11 years. The couple eventually got back together two years later, opting to keep their married life away from cameras ever since shooting a special limited series.
Rush Limbaugh, 70
Often considered the spearhead of conservative political views, legendary radio host Rush Limbaugh had been the voice of Republican voters since the ‘80s. Over the years he gained a reputation as a controversial figure.
Jackie Mason, 93
Jacky Mason was a pop culture darling due to many of his stand-out politically incorrect comedy routines that mix Jewish themes. He had been a legendary name in the stand-up comedy scene for decades, few being able to match his quick wit and on-stage presence. Mason also made regular appearances on late-night TV shows in the ‘80s.
Roger Michell, 65
Though his body of work might not be as large as some of the other TV and movie celebrities on this list, Roger Michell is still widely known for some of the most ground-breaking narrative and character-driven indie films such as Changing Lanes, Venus, Morning Glory, and more. The South African-born director came into the spotlight after directing the 1999 romantic hit Notting Hill.
Jay Pickett, 60
Jay Pickett had been a familiar face in Hollywood since the ‘80s, with many of his fans back in the day hoping he would jump to international stardom. The actor trained hard at UCLA, making his entry into the media scene by starring in guest roles in popular TV shows like China Beach, Perry Mason, and Matlock.
Tanya Roberts, 65
The vivacious and charming Tanya Roberts was probably one of the very few Bond girls who had an actual acting career. Most well-known for her appearance as the Bond Girl for 1985’s Bond Film A View to Kill, she also starred in the 1980s TV show Charlie’s Angels as well as onThat ‘70s Show.
Joseph Siravo, 66
A legend in the theater scene for his work in plays like Oslo and The Light in the Pizza, Joseph Siravo also surprisingly found himself being courted for tough roles in Hollywood films, making his debut in Carlito’s Way, which also starred the legendary Al Pacino. On TV, he was best known for playing Tony Soprano’s father in the iconic TV show The Sopranos.
Stephen Sondheim, 91
One of the greatest talents to ever grace Broadway, Stephen Sondheim was a modern-day maestro who will be remembered for generations to come. This talented composer first came into the spotlight after his runaway Broadway hits West Side Story and Gypsy in the late 1950s. His other popular works include Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Assassins.
Phil Spector, 81
One of the most famous music producers of the last century, Phil Spector worked with some of the biggest musical talents of his time including The Beatles, George Harrison, Tina Turner, The Ramones, and more. However, the talented music producer was also one of the most private people in the rock and roll industry.
Dennis « Dee Tee » Thomas, 70
Considered one of the pioneers of modern funk and jazz, Dennis ‘Dee Tee’ Thomas held a legendary status in modern American music. In 1964 he formed the band ‘Kool & the Gang’ with his friends, going on to make legendary tracks such as Jungle Boogey, Hollywood Swinging, and more.
Cicely Tyson, 96
Cicely Tyson established herself as one of the most talented actresses in a time when Hollywood wasn’t receptive to black stars leading films and TV shows. The actress made her bones through stage acting, going on to star in Hollywood classics such as Sounder and How to Get Away With Murder. The actress was a popular face on both TV and the stage during her acting career.
Melvin Van Peebles, 89
Often referred to as ‘The Godfather of Black Cinema’, Melvin Van Peebles was the first Hollywood director of African-American descent who proved that a major studio movie leading a black star could be financially successful. He pioneered the ‘Blaxploitation’ genre with Shaft, Sweetback’s Badasssss Song, and more.