Since January, 2016 has gone down as one of the most morbid years in recent history. People die every day, but this year, the entertainment industry has lost an unfathomable number of stars who were loved all around the world. Actors, musicians, comedians… The people who work in this industry do so to provide a sense of joy or comfort using their own specific medium. So when we lose these people – those we’ve looked up to and followed during the best and worst of times – it hits hard. As we approach the end of this ‘annus horribilis’, it seems only right to remember those we’ve lost.
The music industry was hit hard from the very beginning of the year, when one of music’s most innovative and creative giants tragically passed. David Bowie died on 10th January, just two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his final album, Blackstar. In the aftermath of his passing, the album took on a new significance and poignancy, as it quickly became clear that Bowie had planned it to be his swan song, before he succumbed to his closely guarded battle with cancer.
Four days later, the film industry also took a hefty blow when Alan Rickman also died as a result of cancer. An actor of great presence and dexterity, Rickman’s loss was similarly tough, as each generation mourned him – from those old enough to love his villainous roles in Die Hard and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, to those who would always know him as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films.
Then, at the end of that month, one of the UK’s most beloved broadcasters also passed. A presenter with great warmth and charisma, Terry Wogan was a patron of TV and Radio who is still sorely missed. February saw the loss of more stars, from magician Paul Daniels to Frank Kelly and the great Ronnie Corbett. One of the country’s best loved comedians, best known for being half of The Two Ronnies, this loss was also tough.
In April, the music industry lost another inimitable star when Prince passed away at the age of 57. A distinctly talented musician, Prince’s incredible legacy lives on alongside the professional creeds of other fallen stars like Bowie, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, John Lennon and Elvis. Within this month, another beloved UK comedian was lost too. The terrifically witty writer and comedian Victoria Wood passed away at the age of 62.
Then, in June, a truly unexpected and all the more tragic loss was felt when Anton Yelchin died in a car accident at the tender age of 27. A promising up and comer, Yelchin had so much more to give, following his breakout performances in Charlie Bartlett and Star Trek.
Subsequent months followed in the same tragic vein, as we lost the likes of Caroline Aherne (the soft-spoken comedy great behind Mrs Merton, Gogglebox and The Royle Family), Kenny Baker (the literal driving force behind R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise), Gene Wilder (the whimsical actor behind Young Frankenstein, The Producers and Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory), US comedian Garry Shandling, Firefly‘s Ron Glass and music icon Leonard Cohen.
Even the festive period of 2016 wasn’t safe from loss. Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs passed away on 1st December, followed later by the death of Liz Smith (star of The Royle Family and The Vicar of Dibley) on Christmas Eve. Wham! singer George Michael suddenly passed away on Christmas Day.
Fateful tragedy continued when Carrie Fisher, the writer and actress best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, died of a heart attack. A day later, her mother – Hollywood legend, Debbie Reynolds – also passed away as a result of a stroke and what many have interpreted as a broken heart.
There will no doubt be more people who we’ve loved onscreen or in film, music and comedy that we will lose in 2017 and beyond, but we can only hope that those losses won’t hit as hard or as frequently as they did this year.
Rest in Peace.