Many of their names hold a prominent place in the collective consciousness — RBG, Kobe, Maradona, Eddie Van Halen, Little Richard, Sean Connery, Alex Trebek, Christo — but pandemic restrictions often limited the public’s ability to mourn their loss in a year that saw more than 1 million people die from the coronavirus.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — known as the Notorious RBG to her many admirers — was one of the many internationally known figures who died in 2020.
The world also said goodbye to U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a lion of the civil rights movement who died in July.
Some of the year’s deaths struck down relatively young people, leaving mourners with the heartbreak of a life gone too soon. Basketball great Kobe Bryant died along with several others in a January helicopter crash at age 41. And in a shock to fans, actor Chadwick Boseman, who inspired audiences with his portrayal of comic book superhero Black Panther, died of cancer in August at age 43.
Here is a roll call of some influential figures in the entertainment/pop culture world who passed away in 2020:
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant points to a player behind him after making a basket in the closing seconds against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in 2009.AP
Nick Gordon, 30. He was found liable in the death of his ex-partner, Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of singers Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. Jan. 1. Heroin overdose.
Neil Peart, 67. The renowned drummer and lyricist from the influential Canadian band Rush. Jan. 7.
Buck Henry, 89. “The Graduate” co-writer who as screenwriter, character actor, “Saturday Night Live” host and cherished talk-show and party guest became an all-around cultural superstar of the 1960s and 70s. Jan. 8.
Terry Jones, 77. A founding member of the anarchic Monty Python troupe who was hailed by colleagues as “the complete Renaissance comedian” and “a man of endless enthusiasms.” Jan. 21.
Jim Lehrer, 85. The longtime host of the nightly PBS “NewsHour” whose serious, sober demeanor made him the choice to moderate 11 presidential debates between 1988 and 2012. Jan. 23.
Kobe Bryant, 41. The 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career spent entirely with the Los Angeles Lakers. Jan. 26. Helicopter crash.
Andy Gill, 64. The guitarist who supplied the scratching, seething sound that fueled the highly influential British punk band Gang of Four. Feb. 1.
Kirk Douglas, 103. The intense, muscular actor with the dimpled chin who starred in “Spartacus,” “Lust for Life” and dozens of other films, helped fatally weaken the blacklist against suspected communists and reigned for decades as a Hollywood maverick and patriarch. Feb. 5.
Kirk Douglas and Jean Simmons are shown in a scene from the 1960 film “Spartacus.”Universal
Roger Kahn, 92. The writer who wove memoir and baseball and touched millions of readers through his romantic account of the Brooklyn Dodgers in “The Boys of Summer.” Feb. 6.
Orson Bean, 91. The witty actor and comedian who enlivened the game show “To Tell the Truth” and played a crotchety merchant on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” Feb. 7. Hit by a car.
Robert Conrad, 84. The rugged, contentious actor who starred in the hugely popular 1960s television series “Hawaiian Eye” and “The Wild Wild West.” Feb. 8.
Mirella Freni, 84. An Italian soprano whose uncommon elegance and intensity combined with a sumptuous voice and intelligence to enthrall audiences for a half-century. Feb. 9.
Joseph Shabalala, 78. The founder of the South African multi-Grammy-Award-winning music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Feb. 11.
Zoe Caldwell, 86. A four-time Tony Award winner who brought humanity to larger-than-life characters, whether it be the dotty schoolteacher Miss Jean Brodie, an aging opera star Maria Callas or the betrayed, murderous Medea. Feb. 16.
Barbara Smith shows off some of the dishes at her Washington restaurant, B. Smith’s, in 2002.AP
Charles Portis, 86. The novelist was a favorite among critics and writers for such shaggy dog stories as “Norwood” and “Gringos” and a bounty for Hollywood whose droll, bloody Western “True Grit” was a bestseller twice adapted into Oscar-nominated films. Feb. 17.
Barbara “B.” Smith, 70. She was one of the nation’s top Black models who went on to open restaurants, launch a successful home products line and write cookbooks. Feb. 22.
Katherine Johnson, 101. A mathematician who calculated rocket trajectories and Earth orbits for NASA’s early space missions and was later portrayed in the 2016 hit film “Hidden Figures,” about pioneering Black female aerospace workers. Feb. 24.
Katherine G. Johnson is honored at the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, Virginia, in 2016. NASA
Clive Cussler, 88. The million-selling adventure writer and real-life thrill-seeker who wove personal details and spectacular fantasies into his page-turning novels about underwater explorer Dirk Pitt. Feb. 24.
Max von Sydow, 90. The actor known to art house audiences through his work with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and later to moviegoers everywhere when he played the priest in the horror classic “The Exorcist.” March 8.
Lyle Waggoner, 84. He used his good looks to comic effect on “The Carol Burnett Show,” partnered with a superhero on “Wonder Woman” and was the first centerfold for Playgirl magazine. March 17.
Kenny Rogers, 81. The Grammy-winning balladeer who spanned jazz, folk, country and pop with such hits as “Lucille,” “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream” and embraced his persona as “The Gambler” on records and TV. March 20.
Terrence McNally, 81. He was one of America’s great playwrights whose prolific career included winning Tony Awards for the plays “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “Master Class” and the musicals “Ragtime” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” March 24. Coronavirus.
Fred “Curly” Neal, 77. The dribbling wizard who entertained millions with the Harlem Globetrotters for parts of three decades. March 26.
Joe Diffie, 61. A country singer who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles like “Home” and “Pickup Man.” March 29. Coronavirus.
Bill Withers, 81. He wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time, including “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” March 30.
Sean Connery and Honor Blackman are shown in a scene from the 1964 James Bond film “Goldfinger.”United Artists
Ellis Marsalis Jr., 85. The jazz pianist, teacher and patriarch of a New Orleans musical clan. April 1. Coronavirus.
Honor Blackman, 94. The potent British actress who took James Bond’s breath away in “Goldfinger” and who starred as the leather-clad, judo-flipping Cathy Gale in “The Avengers.” April 5.
John Prine, 73. The singer-songwriter who explored the heartbreaks, indignities and absurdities of everyday life in “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Hello in There” and scores of other songs. April 7. Coronavirus.
This June 15, 2019 file photo shows John Prine performing at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennesee.AP
Herbert Stempel, 93. A fall guy and whistleblower of early television whose confession to deliberately losing on a 1950s quiz show helped drive a national scandal and join his name in history to winning contestant Charles Van Doren. April 7.
Mort Drucker, 91. The Mad magazine cartoonist who for decades lovingly spoofed politicians, celebrities and popular culture. April 9.
Brian Dennehy, 81. The burly actor who started in films as a macho heavy and later in his career won plaudits for his stage work in plays by William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller. April 15.
Irrfan Khan, 54. A veteran character actor in Bollywood movies and one of India’s best-known exports to Hollywood. April 29.
Rishi Kapoor, 67. A top Indian actor who was a scion of Bollywood’s most famous Kapoor family. April 30.
Little Richard performs during halftime at the Liberty Bowl in 2004 in Memphis, Tennessee.AP
Roy Horn, 75. He was half of Siegfried & Roy, the duo whose extraordinary magic tricks astonished millions until Horn was critically injured in 2003 by one of the act’s famed white tigers. May 8. Coronavirus.
Little Richard, 87. He was one of the chief architects of rock ‘n’ roll whose piercing wail, pounding piano and towering pompadour irrevocably altered popular music while introducing Black R&B to white America. May 9. Bone cancer.
Jerry Stiller, 92. For decades, he teamed with wife Anne Meara in a beloved comedy duo and then reached new heights in his senior years as the high-strung Frank Costanza on the classic sitcom “Seinfeld” and the basement-dwelling father-in-law on “The King of Queens.” May 11.
Astrid Kirchherr, 81. She was the German photographer who shot some of the earliest and most striking images of the Beatles and helped shape their trend-setting visual style. May 12.
British actor Ian Holm gestures during the photocall of French director Arnaud Desplechin’s film “Esther Khan” in Cannes in 2000.AFP via Getty Images
Fred Willard, 86. The comedic actor whose improv style kept him relevant for more than 50 years in films like “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Best In Show” and “Anchorman.” May 15.
Ken Osmond, 76. On TV’s “Leave It to Beaver,” he played two-faced teenage scoundrel Eddie Haskell, a role so memorable it left him typecast and led to a second career as a police officer. May 18.
Christo, 84. He was known for massive, ephemeral public arts projects that often involved wrapping large structures in fabric. May 31.
Bonnie Pointer, 69. She convinced three of her church-singing siblings to form the Pointer Sisters, which would become one of the biggest acts of the 1970s and ’80s. June 8. Cardiac arrest.
Vera Lynn, 103. The endearingly popular “Forces’ Sweetheart” who serenaded British troops during World War II. June 18.
Ian Holm, 88. An acclaimed British actor whose long career included roles in “Chariots of Fire” and “The Lord of the Rings.” June 19.
Joel Schumacher, 80. The eclectic and brazen filmmaker who shepherded the Brat Pack to the big screen in “St. Elmo’s Fire” and steered the Batman franchise into its most baroque territory in “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin.” June 22.
Rudolfo Anaya, 82. A writer who helped launch the 1970s Chicano Literature Movement with his novel “Bless Me, Ultima,” a book celebrated by Latinos. June 28.
Master of Ceremonies Carl Reiner is photographed onstage at the 63rd Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards in 2011 in Hollywood, California.
Carl Reiner, 98. The ingenious and versatile writer, actor and director who broke through as a “second banana” to Sid Caesar and rose to comedy’s front ranks as creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man.” June 29.
Johnny Mandel, 94. The Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer, arranger and musician who worked on albums by Frank Sinatra and Natalie Cole and whose songwriting credits included “The Shadow of Your Smile” and the theme from the film and TV show “MASH.” June 29.
Hugh Downs, 99. The genial, versatile broadcaster who became one of television’s most familiar and welcome faces with more than 15,000 hours on news, game and talk shows. July 1.
Nick Cordero, 41. A Tony Award-nominated actor who specialized in playing tough guys on Broadway in such shows as “Waitress,” “A Bronx Tale” and “Bullets Over Broadway.” July 5. Coronavirus.
Ennio Morricone, 91. The Oscar-winning Italian composer who created the coyote-howl theme for the iconic spaghetti Western “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and soundtracks for such classic Hollywood gangster movies as “The Untouchables” and “Once Upon A Time In America.” July 6. Complications of surgery after a fall.
Charlie Daniels, 83. Country music firebrand and fiddler who had a hit with “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” July 6. Stroke.
Naya Rivera, 33. A singer and actor who played a gay cheerleader on the hit TV musical comedy “Glee.” July 8. Drowning.
Kelly Preston, 57. She played dramatic and comic foil to actors ranging from Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire” to Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Twins” and was married to actor John Travolta. July 12. Cancer.
With the Capitol Dome in the background, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., poses in 2007 in Washington.AP
John Lewis, 80. An icon of the civil rights movement whose bloody beating by Alabama state troopers in 1965 helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation, and who went on to a long and celebrated career in Congress. July 17.
Regis Philbin, 88. The genial host who shared his life with television viewers over morning coffee for decades and helped himself and some fans strike it rich with the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” July 24.
John Saxon, 83. A versatile actor with a lengthy and prolific career who starred with Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon” and appeared in several “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies. July 25. Pneumonia.
Olivia de Havilland, 104. The doe-eyed actress beloved to millions as the sainted Melanie Wilkes of “Gone With the Wind,” but also a two-time Oscar winner and an off-screen fighter who challenged and unchained Hollywood’s contract system. July 26.
Alan Parker, 76. A successful and sometimes surprising filmmaker whose diverse output includes “Bugsy Malone,” “Midnight Express” and “Evita.” July 31.
Actor Chadwick Boseman poses for a portrait in 2018 in New York to promote his film, “Black Panther.”Victoria Will/Invision/AP
Wilford Brimley, 85. He worked his way up from movie stunt rider to an indelible character actor who brought gruff charm, and sometimes menace, to a range of films that included “Cocoon,” “The Natural” and “The Firm.” Aug. 1.
Chadwick Boseman, 43. He played Black American icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown with searing intensity before inspiring audiences worldwide as the regal Black Panther in Marvel’s blockbuster movie franchise. Aug. 28. Cancer.
Diana Rigg, 82. A commanding British actress whose career stretched from iconic 1960s spy series “The Avengers” to fantasy juggernaut “Game of Thrones.” Sept. 10.
Toots Hibbert, 77. One of reggae’s founders and most beloved stars who gave the music its name and later helped make it an international movement through such classics as “Pressure Drop,” “Monkey Man” and “Funky Kingston.” Sept. 11.
Winston Groom, 77. The writer whose novel “Forrest Gump” was made into a six-Oscar winning 1994 movie that became a soaring pop culture phenomenon. Sept. 17.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87. The U.S. Supreme Court justice developed a cult-like following over her more than 27 years on the bench, especially among young women who appreciated her lifelong, fierce defense of women’s rights. Sept. 18.
Gale Sayers, 77. The dazzling and elusive running back who entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite the briefest of careers and whose fame extended far beyond the field for decades thanks to a friendship with a dying Chicago Bears teammate. Sept. 23.
Helen Reddy, 78. She shot to stardom in the 1970s with her rousing feminist anthem “I Am Woman” and recorded a string of other hits. Sept. 29.
Mac Davis, 78. A country music star who launched his career crafting the Elvis hits “A Little Less Conversation” and “In the Ghetto,” and whose own hits include “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me.” Sept. 29.
Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen performs in Phoenix, in 2004. AP
Eddie Van Halen, 65. The guitar virtuoso whose blinding speed, control and innovation propelled his band Van Halen into one of hard rock’s biggest groups and became elevated to the status of rock god. Oct. 6. Cancer.
Johnny Nash, 80. A singer-songwriter, actor and producer who rose from pop crooner to early reggae star to the creator and performer of the million-selling anthem “I Can See Clearly Now.” Oct. 6.
Rhonda Fleming, 97. The fiery redhead who appeared with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Ronald Reagan and other film stars of the 1940s and 1950s. Oct. 14.
Spencer Davis, 81. A British guitarist and bandleader whose eponymous rock group had 1960s hits including “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “I’m a Man.” Oct. 19.
Billy Joe Shaver, 81. An outlaw country singer-songwriter who wrote songs like “Honky Tonk Heroes,” “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train” and “Old Five and Dimers Like Me.” Oct. 28.
Actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London in 1987.AP
Sean Connery, 90. The charismatic Scottish actor who rose to international superstardom as the suave secret agent James Bond and then abandoned the character to carve out an Oscar-winning career in other rugged roles. Oct. 31.
Alex Trebek hosted “Jeopardy!” for more than 30 years.AP
Norm Crosby, 93. The deadpan mangler of the English language who thrived in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s as a television, nightclub and casino comedian. Nov. 7.
Alex Trebek, 80. He presided over the beloved quiz show “Jeopardy!” for more than 30 years with dapper charm and a touch of schoolmaster strictness. Nov. 8.
Soumitra Chatterjee, 85. The legendary Indian actor with more than 200 movies to his name and famed for his work with Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray. Nov. 15. Coronavirus.
Dave Prowse, 85. The British weightlifter-turned-actor who was the body, though not the voice, of archvillain Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Nov. 28.
Charley Pride performs during his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2000.AP
David L. Lander, 73. An actor who played the character of Squiggy on the popular ABC comedy “Laverne & Shirley.” Dec. 4.
Charles “Chuck” Yeager, 97. The World War II fighter pilot ace and quintessential test pilot who in 1947 became the first person to fly faster than sound. Dec. 7.
Charley Pride, 86. He was one of country music’s first Black superstars whose rich baritone on such hits as “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” helped sell millions of records and made him the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Dec. 12. Coronavirus.
John le Carre, 89. The spy-turned-novelist whose elegant and intricate narratives defined the Cold War espionage thriller and brought acclaim to a genre critics had once ignored. Dec. 12.
Actress, dancer and choreographer Ann Reinking has died at age 71. The Tony Award and Olivier Award winner was best known for her roles in “Chicago” on Broadway, “Annie”, “Micki & Maude”, “All That Jazz” and “Fosse.”Getty Images
Ann Reinking, 71. The Tony Award-winning choreographer, actress and Bob Fosse collaborator who helped spread a cool, muscular hybrid of jazz and burlesque movement to Broadway and beyond. Dec. 12.
Jeremy Bulloch, 75. The English actor who first donned a helmet, cape and jetpack to play Boba Fett in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Dec. 17.
Dawn Wells, 82. The actress will forever be remembered for her role as the wholesome Mary Ann on the TV series “Gilligan’s Island.” Dec. 30.
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