On Christmas Day, actor William Shatner, the pilot of TV’s “Star Trek” space adventure summed up 2016 saying “Is this year over yet? Too many people are passing away. Rest in Peace George Michael.”
Nile Rodgers, founder of the hit group Chic founder added “this is so crazy I was just at his house the morning of the 23rd. So crazy.”
The shocking news dulled the revelry of the Christian holiday, the second day of the Jewish Channukah festivities and the Kwanzaa celebration African Americans anticipated the following day.
In a requiem to the sudden passing of the two-time British, Grammy winner, former Radio One DJ Tony Blackburn said “This dreadful year goes on and on…RIP George Michael.”
“During an influential career that spanned nearly four decades, George became one of the most beloved pop craftsmen and respected entertainers. From the enormous success he achieved with pop duo Wham! to his influential solo career, his extraordinary talent had a profound impact on countless entertainers worldwide, and his creative contributions will live on forever,” Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy said.
“We have lost a cherished artist and our sincerest condolences go out to George’s family, friends, and musical collaborators. He will be missed.”
The music award institution had issued a similar statement a decade ago on the very same day when soul singer James Brown succumbed at age 73. Two years later, another Christmas Day shocker upstaged the revelry with the announcement of the death of Eartha Kitt on the holiday. Kitt died at age 81.
Early in 2016, Portnow lamented the death of another British singer/musician who passed in New York. David Bowie, a New York resident died on Jan. 10, after battling cancer. He was 69.
Celebrated New Yorkers were hard-hit with tragedies in 2016.
Colonel Abrams, a 80s chart-topper whose “Trapped” and “Ain’t Gonna Let” ruled disco clubs died on Nov. 25 at age 67. He was acclaimed to be the pioneer of house and dance music.
Born in Detroit, Michigan his family later moved to East 13 Street, in Manhattan’s east Village and here is where his international mark as dancer, singer and actor.
Local media suffered a blow when “PBS News Hour” co-anchor Gwen Ifill died on Nov. 14. The reporter battled with cancer and lost the fight at age 61. Ifill was born in Jamaica, Queens. Reports in the New York Times stated that she grew up in federally subsidized housing in Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island.
New York City-born actor Robert Vaughn died of leukemia on Nov. 11. He was 83. Vaughn was known best for his role in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E” television series
The creator of “Happy Days” and “The Odd Couple” was a Bronx native. Garry Marshall, born in the borough in 1934, died of complications from pneumonia after suffering a stroke. He was 81. Marshall also directed “Pretty Woman” and “The Princess Diaries.”
A prolific author, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel died on July 2. He was 87. Though born in Romania, Wiesel called Manhattan home until the time of his death.
Lou Pearlman, the creator of ‘NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, died in federal prison on Aug. 19, 2016. He was 62. Pearlman was born in Flushing, Queens, and graduated from Queens College in the late 1970s. Pearlman was serving out a 25-year sentence for swindling banks and investors out of more than $300 million.
Michael Cimino, the Academy Award-winning director behind the 1978 Vietnam War film “The Deer Hunter,” died on July 2, 2016. He was 77. Born in New York City, Cimino grew up on Long Island before moving to Los Angeles in 1971.
What is New York Fashion Week without Bill Cunningham? The New York Times photographer was known for his street style pictures — and for the bike he rode around Manhattan while shooting. Cunningham had been with the newspaper for 40 years when he died on June 25. He was 87.
Former “60 Minutes” news correspondent Morley Safer died in Manhattan on May 19. He was 84. The veteran journalist joined CBS News in Dec. 1970 and had retired just a week before his death.
Patty Duke, a native of Queens who won an Oscar as a teenager for “The Miracle Worker,” died of sepsis on March 29. She was 69. The actress’ long career included her own television show, “The Patty Duke Show,” and “The Valley of the Dolls.”
Former first lady Nancy Reagan died of congestive heart failure on March 6. She was 94. Reagan grew up in Flushing, Queens, before becoming a Hollywood actress and marrying then-actor and future President Ronald Reagan in 1952.
George Kennedy, who was born in NYC died on Feb. 28. He was 91. The veteran character actor starred in countless movies including “Cool Hand Luke” and “Airport.”
“Mob Wives” star and Brooklyn native Angela Raiola, better known as “Big Ang,” died on Feb. 18 after battling cancer. She was 55.
Muhammad Ali was not a New Yorker. However when he died on June 3 at age 73 he was grieved for many days at Harlem’s Apollo Theater as if he was born and raised in the Big Apple. His mega accomplishments in boxing and iconic philanthropic and cultural contributions were partly attributed to the outpouring of love the community displayed but mostly his ties to the city revered him as a favorite son. The legendary world championship fighter had struggled from Parkinson’s disease for 35 years but after suffering from respiratory issues, the three-time-former champion passed away in a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.
His funeral was held in his hometown Louisville, Kentucky.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota the color purple reigned when news of the passing of Prince Rogers Nelson made headlines on April 21.
The rock/pop superstar died in his Paisley Park recording studio.
Prince was most famous for the classic song and movie “Purple Rain” as well as a long list of Grammy-winning compositions including “Little Red Corvette,” “When Doves Cry,” “1999,””Let’s Go Crazy,” “Do Me Baby,” “I Would Die 4U,” “Diamonds and Pearls,” “Raspberry Beret,” “I Wanna be Your Lover” and a trove of classic recordings.
Prince was 57.
Prince protégé Vanity died Feb. 15. The leader of a 80s group known as Vanity 6, her off-stage name was Denise Katrina Matthews. Like Prince, she too died at 57.
A partial listing of celebrated departures also include: Maurice White of the rhythm and blues group Earth Wind and Fire, 74, actor Ron Glass, 71, Frank Sinatra Jr. 75, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99, Phife Dawg, a Tribe called Quest, 45, actors Bill Nunn, 66, Gene Wilder, 83, Kenny “R2D2” Baker, 81, and Alan Thicke, 69, musician Leon Russell,74 and John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the earth at 95.
The Caribbean suffered tragic losses on Sep. 8 with the passing of Cecil Bustamante Campbell, a Jamaican ska innovator popularly known as Prince Buster. The music producer and recorder died in Miami, Florida at age 78.
Another source of grief for Caribbean music lovers focused on Jamaican radio co-host Ellen (Pat) Bailey. Most listeners familiar with the “Gil and Pat Bailey Show,” will recall the St. Elizabeth-born co-producer as Miss Pat, Gil’s spouse who co-piloted New York’s longest running Jamaican radio program. Bailey died on Dec. 12 in her Long Island home, at age 77.
She died after suffering a stroke one year ago while broadcasting her popular “Let’s Hear It” segment on WPAT radio, (930 AM).
Another of her legacies proved a tribute to her island-nation when she opened a one-stop shop for Jamaican foods. She named it Yard & Farrin, a place nationals could find food treats galore.
Guyana mourned Edward Ricardo Braithwaite, a prolific author, educator, engineer and diplomat.
Braithwaite later moved to Britain and enlister in the Royal Air Force, but even with a degree in engineering from Cambridge, he was denied a job in that field because he was Black.
Rather than fight a potential losing battle with pervasive racism in that field he challenged a teaching career in the slums of London. Equally competitive due to the unruly students he was forced to educate he ultimately succeeded in winning their confidence, trust and respect. He chronicled his teaching experience living there by penning a book he titled “To Sir With Love.”
The book inspired a movie of the same name that starred actor Sidney Poitier and Scottish singer Lulu.
Braithwaite died Dec. 13 at age 104 in Rockville, Maryland.
Perhaps the Caribbean region attracted its biggest publicity windfall when revolutionary, Communist leader Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz died on Nov. 25 in Cuba. Nine days of official, national mourning found thousands grieving the world leader who died at age 90. Castro was cremated and his ashes were placed in a wooden box which was inserted inside the niche of a 10-foot rounded boulder at the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery.
Also gone but not forgotten, singer Natalie Cole, the daughter of iconic balladeer Nat King Cole, died Dec. 31, 2015 at age 65.
Catch You On The Inside!