As I was getting ready to submit the Ralphie Report, I felt a bit conflicted: this week’s column is usually a retrospective on the year in music, but how could you not help but simply look back at those we lost in 2016? An iconic trio of musicians in Prince, David Bowie and most recently George Michael all passed on this year. Michael was 53 and died unexpectedly Sunday, drawing an even more poignant tone to his hit “Last Christmas” on what has already been a melancholy-filled year.
Sadly the list includes other artists who left an everlasting impact on their craft: Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Glenn Frey, Sharon Jones and “A Tribe Called Quest” emcee Phife Dawg.
And then news broke of Carrie Fisher’s death. The “Star Wars” actress who rose to international fame in the role of Princess Leia suffered a heart attack over the weekend. She was 60.
The names of other influential figures who passed away began to flood back: Muhammad Ali, “Willy Wonka” star Gene Wilder, comedian Garry Shandling, socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor and “Brady Bunch” actress Florence Henderson.
Producers of the “In Memoriam” segments for the 2017 award shows will have quite the task at hand.
Generally the reaction online when each headline hits is similar: 2016 is the worst year ever and here’s another reason why. I think you’re seeing this for two reasons: first, many of these names are true icons. Their influence transcends box office numbers and album sales. These are names who generations of people grew up with and were in some cases transfixed by.
Second, our country is as divided as ever, and in this era of political extremes it only makes sense that reactions to both the positive and negative would be accentuated.
Look, the fact of the matter is more celebrities who we adore will die in 2017. Artists who you and I enjoy, respect and admire will pass. We will hopefully memorialize them properly, allow their contributions to live in eternity and continue on to find new entertainers that will inspire us just as much if not more.
Besides, as “Fight Club” novelist Chuck Palahniuk said, “The goal isn’t to live forever; it’s to create something that will.”
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