It seemed 2016 has been widely regarded as one of the worst years in recent memory. I’ve personally felt that 2016 has been riddled with an overwhelming — and seemingly never ending — amount of bad news. One of the hardest parts of last year was losing so many talented, inspiring people.
The world was rocked by the news of David Bowie’s death, only ten days after 2016 started. The two time Grammy winning musician influenced not only music, but also acted as a pinnacle of our culture for over five decades. His most popular songs, “Space Oddity,” “Fame,” “Heroes,” and “Under Pressure,” to name a few, have remained prevalent even decades after their release. Bowie himself was a fashion icon, and effectively changed the game for both rock and pop music. Even those who may not have been fans of Bowie from the start felt the weight of the loss. David Bowie died on January 10th, he was 69 years old.
Four days later, on January 14th, beloved actor Alan Rickman died at 69. Rickman was known for his roles in “Die Hard,” “Love Actually,” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Stree,t” and many more, but he was best known for portraying Professor Snape in the “Harry Potter” movies.
Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize winning Author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” died at the age of 89 on February 19, then Nancy Reagan, First Lady of the US from 1981-1989 and wife of President Ronald Reagan died on March 6 at the age of 94.
In April the world was again shocked by the loss of yet another musical icon: Prince. Prince was a musical innovator, and much like Bowie he was also known for his eclectic and flamboyant stage presence. Best known for his song “Purple Rain,” Prince’s music integrated many different genres, from funk and soul, to psychedelia and pop. Prince was one of the best-selling artists of all time, selling over 100 million records worldwide and winning seven Grammy awards. He died on April 21st at 57 years old.
Muhammad Ali, three time heavyweight boxing champion and political activist, died on June 4th at the age of 74. Muhammad Ali converted to Islam and stood against white oppression, setting an example for African American racial pride and becoming a significant figure in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. In 1996, Muhammad Ali famously refused conscription to the US military during the Vietnam War, stating his religious beliefs of non-violence and general opposition to the war meant he would not fight. He was arrested and stripped of his boxing titles. Although his conviction was eventually overturned, Ali’s brave objections made him a figurehead of the counterculture generation. Regardless of his passing, Muhammad Ali will forever continue to inspire people all around the world.
Pop singer and former “The Voice” contestant Christina Grimmie died on June 10th when a crazed fan shot her at her fan meet and greet in Orlando, Florida. Grimmie was only 22 years old. Her death was especially heartbreaking, as only two days later and in the same location, Omar Mateen opened fire on Pulse nightclub, resulting in the deaths of 50 people and gaining the horrifying titles of deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and deadliest attack against LGBT+ people. Mateen’s hate has caused yet even more fear in this age of uncertainty, but the tragedy has also reopened the narrative on gun control and gay rights. Anton Yelchin, best known for his role as Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek revamp, died in a freak accident on June 19, he was only 27 years old.
On August 29th, beloved actor, director, and screenwriter Gene Wilder passed away at 83 years old. Wilder was best known for his roles in “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” and “Willy Wonka.” Then almost a month later on September 25, Arnold Palmer one of the greatest and most well known golfers of all time, died at the age of 87.
November began with the loss of legendary poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen. Cohen was most famous for his beautiful songs “Hallelujah,” “Suzanne,” and “Bird on the Wire.” Cohen died on November 7th, he was 82 years old. One week later, on November 14th, journalist on “Washington Week” and “PBS Newshour” Gwen Ifill died at the age of 61 due to breast cancer. Ifill was known for her eloquence and grace on air, and as the first African American to host a nationally televised US public affairs program, she was also an inspiring trailblazer who changed journalism forever. Actress and singer Florence Henderson passed away on November 24th. Henderson was best known, and loved, for her role as the mother Carol Brady on the classic TV show “The Brady Bunch.” Henderson was 82 years old when she passed.
The death toll continued to rise even as 2016 came to a close. Alan Thicke, an actor best known for his role as Jason Seaver, the father on the TV show “Growing Pains” died on December 13th at 69. Then, on December 27th, Carrie Fisher passed away. Carrie Fisher was an influential figure, inspiring girls as her role as the strong-willed Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” film series. Fisher had struggled with drug addiction and mental illness, and as such was open about her hardships and became an advocate for mental health awareness. Tragically, the next day was marked with the death of her mother, Debbie Reynolds, at age 84. Ms. Reynolds was known for her role in “Singing in the Rain,” “Give a Girl a Break,” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”
The world has suffered and mourned the loss of so many important figures. Whether they be actors, musicians, sports icons, or innocent victims, each life lost was a permanent wound for so many people. However, each individual’s passing also illuminated their accomplishments, and proved that they all changed and impacted the world in some way, whether big or small. It is important to remember in times of mourning that although these influential people might be gone, their legacies live on in the those they’ve touched. As long as we continue to celebrate their lives, those who are gone will never truly be forgotten.
Graphics: Justine Umali