Whether well-known on the global stage or celebrated in the spheres of their home countries, in 2021, the world said a sad farewell to a number of famous and influential people.
Some will be remembered for their longevity on the world’s stage, such as Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died in April aged 99.
Others will be celebrated for the effects of their activism and intelligence which are still felt today, such as the legacy left behind by Egyptian feminist writer, activist, physician Nawal El Saadawi.
Scroll through the gallery above to see the stars we said goodbye to in 2021…
It felt like the end of an era when Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died at the age of 80 after a lifetime spent rock and rolling in the spotlight, while the phrase “gone too soon” is poignantly perfect for the likes of Indian actor Rahul Vohra, who died from Covid-19 aged 35, and English Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding whose life was cut short by breast cancer at the age of 39.
In sport, England’s famous 1966 World Cup-winning team lost two teammates in Roger Hunt and Jimmy Greaves, while Eileen Ash died in December at the age of 110, holding the distinction of being the longest-lived international cricketer, male or female.
Bollywood lights were dimmed for the loss of the "Tragedy King" of Hindi cinema Dilip Kumar, and actor, producer and director Rajiv Raj Kapoor, while the Philippines’ beloved Shalala will entertain no more.
Names that changed the world, such as astronaut Michael Collins and lyricist Stephen Sondheim will be sadly missed, alongside true pioneers such as acclaimed Kuwaiti film director Khaled Al Siddiq, who directed 1972’s Cruel Sea, the first feature film directed and produced by a Gulf citizen.
Here's who we lost this year, month by month:
October 15, 1955 – January 4, 2021
New York-born Tanya Roberts was best known for her role as Bond Girl Stacey Sutton in A View To A Kill, as well as Julie Rogers in the TV show Charlie’s Angels. Confusion surrounded her death when her publicist mistakenly announced she had died on January 3, although she was to die a day later at the age of 65 from a urinary tract infection, which spread to her kidney, gallbladder, liver and bloodstream.
May 10, 1947 – January 7, 2021
The actress, best known for playing the deceptively softly spoken Officer Laverne Hooks in the Police Academy movie franchise, died at the age of 73 following a short illness.
June 13, 1939 – January 13, 2021
One-half of the famous magic-and-tigers act Siegfried and Roy, Siegfried Fischbacher died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 81. Having started his magic career as a child, he met his performing partner Roy Horn on a cruise ship when the pair teamed up for a show. After being scouted by a talent agent, they became one of Las Vegas’s biggest draws.
December 26, 1939 – January 17, 2021
The legendary music producer, famed for inventing the "wall of sound" approach to music production, died in prison at the age of 81. Having produced some of the most famous songs in the world, including Be My Baby, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling and The Beatles’s Let It Be, Phil Spector had been serving a life sentence for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson at his California home.
November 19, 1933 – January 23, 2021
The famed broadcaster and interviewer died aged 87. Famously married seven times, the cancer survivor became known for his long-form sit-downs with some of the most famous people in the world, including celebrities and politicians. Richard Nixon, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin were just a few of the more-than-60,000 interviews Larry King conducted in his lifetime, earning him a place in the Guinness World Records.
April 30, 1926 – January 27, 2021
Celebrated US actress Cloris Leachman died from natural causes aged 94. Scooping an Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy in her career, the beloved star was best known for her roles as Phyllis Lindstrom in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Ida Welker in Malcolm in the Middle, and as Frau Blucher in the Mel Brooks classic Young Frankenstein.
December 19, 1924 – January 28, 2021
US actress Cicely Tyson died aged 96 with her funeral attended by Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as her godson, the musician Lenny Kravitz. Enjoying a richly decorated career during which she won a Tony, Emmy and Honorary Oscar, her film credits include Fried Green Tomatoes and The Help.
January 7, 1977 – February 1, 2021
The actor, best known for his role as Samuel "Screech" Powers on the beloved children’s TV show Saved by the Bell, died aged 44 after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer only three weeks prior. “I will miss those raw, brilliant sparks that only he was able to produce,” said his co-star Mark-Paul Gosselaar. “A pie in your face, my comrade."
Captain Sir Thomas Moore
April 30, 1920 – February 2, 2021
The British army officer made global headlines and united the UK when his bid to walk around his garden 100 times in the run-up to his 100th birthday to raise funds for the NHS went viral. On April 6, 2020, aged 99, he began walking lengths of his garden hoping to raise £1,000 ($1,340). By his birthday he had raised more than £40 million ($54m). His 100th birthday included a flypast by the Royal Air Force and British Army. On July 17, 2020, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
December 13, 1929 – February 5, 2021
The acclaimed star of stage and screen died aged 91 with tributes pouring in from the likes of Daniel Craig, Ridley Scott, Jamie Lee Curtis and Anne Hathaway.
The star was only missing the "G" from his EGOT, scooping an Emmy, Oscar and Tony in his career, and being Grammy-nominated three times (but no Golden Globe). Among his many roles, he is best known for starring in The Sound of Music, Beginners and Knives Out.
Ezzat El Alaili
September 15, 1934 – February 5, 2021
The Egyptian actor died aged 86, after a career in which he appeared in more than 300 films, TV shows and plays. Beginning his career in the 1960s, his films include Al Ens Wa Al Jinn, Bostan El Dam and Qaed A’aely. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2015.
March 6, 1944 – February 8, 2021
The American singer was best known as a founding member of 1960s Motown group The Supremes, which became one of the best-selling all-female groups of all time. Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, alongside bandmates Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, Wilson spent her post-The Supremes life as an author, performer and activist. She died in her sleep aged 76.
Rajiv Raj Kapoor
August 25, 1962 – February 9, 2021
The Indian actor, producer and director Rajiv Raj Kapoor died at the age of 58 following a heart attack. A member of the famous Kapoor acting dynasty, he was the youngest son of Raj Kapoor, and brother of Randhir Kapoor and the late Rishi Kapoor. Best known for his lead role in Ram Teri Ganga Maili, he was the producer for 1991’s Henna, and made his directorial debut with Prem Granth.
June 7, 1940 – February 24, 2021
The Rada-trained English actor of television, stage and screen started his career with a 1964 appearance in Doctor Who. A member of Laurence Olivier's National Theatre company, Ronald Pickup’s major screen roles included The Day of the Jackal, The Thirty Nine Steps and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. He died aged 80.
September 5, 1935 – February 28, 2021
The English actor best known for playing long-running character Mike Baldwin in the UK soap opera Coronation Street died aged 85 following a long illness. He appeared in the show from 1976 to 2006, later appearing in TV shows Agatha Christie’s Marple and Holby City in 2007, as well as Echo Beach. He was knighted in the 2007 New Year Honours list.
July 16, 1931 – February 28, 2021
The celebrated Egyptian actor died aged 89 after contracting Covid-19. Best known for his roles in films There is a Man in our House, The Miracle and Cairo, he later made his way into TV dramas, soaps and theatre, appearing in more than 250 productions throughout his career.
April 10, 1947 – March 2, 2021
Neville O’Riley Livingston, who was known by his stage name Bunny Wailer, was a Jamaican singer-songwriter, percussionist and original member of reggae group The Wailers along with Bob Marley. Having won three Grammy awards over the course of his decades-long career, he left The Wailers in 1973 to pursue a solo career, and is considered a pioneer of reggae music. He died aged 73 of complications from a stroke.
November 15, 1939 – March 15, 2021
The New York-born actor began studying acting at the age of 16, making his professional acting debut aged 19 in Othello. Most famous for his role of Dr Kananga in the 1973 Bond film Live and Let Die, as the first black Bond villain, he also appeared in box office hits Alien and The Running Man, and enjoyed a long-running role as Lieutenant Al Giardello in US TV series Homicide: Life on the Street. He died aged 81 in Manila, the Philippines. No cause of death was given.
May 1, 1940 – March 18, 2021
The Italian jewellery designer and model Elsa Peretti died in her sleep at her home in Spain at the age of 80. Renowned for being part of Manhattan’s Studio 54 set, as well as a muse of US designer Halston, she began designing jewellery in 1969, going on to design famous pieces for Tiffany & Co, such as the Bean, Bone Cuff and Open Heart, which remain popular today. Preferring to work with silver, she is credited with popularising the metal, with her work described as “revolutionary”, “timeless, distinct and modern”.
Nawal El Saadawi
October 27, 1931 – March 21, 2021
The Egyptian feminist writer, activist, physician and psychiatrist Nawal El Saadawi died aged 89. A prolific writer, her books covered many feminist subjects and she founded organisations including the Arab Women's Solidarity Association, the Arab Association for Human Rights, the Health Education Association and the Egyptian Women Writers Association. As a doctor, she held many prestigious positions including director general of the Health Education Department for Cairo's Ministry of Health.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, Deputy Ruler of Dubai
December 25, 1945 – March 24, 2021
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, died on March 24. His brother, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced Sheikh Hamdan's death.
A mourning period of 10 days was declared in Dubai.
Sheikh Hamdan, who was in his seventies, had been unwell for some months. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, paid tributes to Sheikh Hamdan. "Today, we lost one of the loyal men of the Emirates after a life full of giving and sincere patriotism," Sheikh Mohamed tweeted.
April 12, 1916 – March 25, 2021
One of America's most successful authors, writing children's and young adult fiction, Beverly Cleary has sold more than 91 million books since she was first published in 1950. Creating memorable protagonists, such as Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby and Beezus Quimby, she is credited with imbuing her characters with emotional realism. During her career, she won the National Book Award, John Newbery Medal, National Medal of Arts and recognition as a Library of Congress Living Legend. She died aged 104.
January 31, 1941 – March 24, 2021
Enjoying an award-winning career that spanned decades, Jessica Walter was best known for her role as obliviously out-of-touch family matriarch Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development (“It’s one banana, Michael, what can it cost? $10?”). Dying in her sleep at the age of 80, her co-star Jason Bateman paid tribute calling her “one of a kind”.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
June 10, 1921 – April 9, 2021
Prince Philip died aged 99 at Windsor Castle. He became the longest-serving royal consort in British history after 73 years of marriage to Queen Elizabeth II. Born into the Greek and Danish royal families, the former Royal Navy commander served during the Second World War, and went on to have four children with the queen. “You get used to anything,” he said of being married to the queen. “You'd be surprised.”
December 18, 1970 – April 9, 2021
The US rapper, whose real name was Earl Simmons, died at the age of 50 following an overdose that left him in a vegetative state. He began rapping at 14, going on to sign with Def Jam Recordings. He was nominated for three Grammys, and put his acting skills to the test in the Aaliyah-starring Romeo Must Die, among other films.
February 12, 1957 – April 11, 2021
The actor, best known for portraying Johnny Soprano in The Sopranos, died aged 64 following a long battle with cancer. A star of theatre and the big and small screens, Siravo appeared in Tony-winning shows both on and off-Broadway, as well as on TV in The Blacklist and New Amsterdam. “I am so immensely grateful to have had him here on earth,” his daughter Allegra Okarmus wrote on Instagram, “and I know that he hasn’t gone very far.”
August 17, 1968 – April 16, 2021
The well-respected British actress Helen McCrory died from breast cancer aged 52. With a filmography that included roles in three Harry Potter films, and the James Bond movie Skyfall, McCrory, the wife of actor Damien Lewis, was awarded an OBE in 2017 for services to drama.
November 19, 1961 – April 17, 2021
Vivekanandan, the Tamil actor known professionally as Vivek, enjoyed a long and varied career as a comedian, television personality, singer and activist. Winning three Filmfare Awards for Run, Saamy and Perazhagan, he was also awarded the Padma Shri Award by the Indian government for his contribution to the arts. He died aged 59 after suffering a cardiac arrest.
November 12, 1955 – April 20, 2021
The Scottish pop star died aged 65 from a "combination of natural causes", according to a coroner's report. Replacing previous lead vocalist for the Bay City Rollers, Gordon Clark in 1973, Les McKeown – aged 18 at the time – helped take the band to the mainstream, with the hits Remember, Summerlove Sensation, Shang-a-Lang and Bye Bye Baby. He also took the lead vocals for their sole US number one Saturday Night.
November 13, 1954 – April 22, 2021
Bollywood music composer Shravan Rathod, one half of the famed Nadeem-Shravan duo, died of Covid-19 at the age of 66. The musician, along with his business partner Nadeem Saifi, was best known for his work in Bollywood films in the 1990s, including Raja, Barsaat, Agni, Sakshi and Jeet. They were also credited with modernising the use of the bansuri, sitar and shehnai, to evolve new music styles.
June 12, 1961 – April 24, 2021
Encouraged to pursue his interest in fashion by his mother, Alber Elbaz turned $800, which she gave him in 1985 to go to New York, into a career in which he worked at some of the world’s biggest fashion houses. Eventually designing for the likes of Guy Laroche, Yves Saint Laurent and Lanvin, Elbaz died from Covid-19 at the age of 59.
October 31, 1930 – April 28, 2021
The American astronaut achieved everlasting global fame for being the man who flew the Apollo 11 command module Columbia around the moon in 1969, allowing his crewmates Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to land on the surface. A test pilot and major general in the US Air Force Reserves, he twice flew into space, later working for Nasa and in the Department of State. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011. He died aged 90.
June 20, 1931 – May 1, 2021
The scion of the US political family, Olympia Dukakis was best known for her Oscar-winning role in 1987’s Moonstruck opposite Cher, who also won an Academy Award for the film. Roles in Working Girl, Steel Magnolias and Mighty Aphrodite were considered standouts in a career that spanned seven decades. She died at the age of 89.
April 15, 1962 – May 4, 2021
The English model, singer and musician was thrust into the spotlight thanks to a 1985 advertisement for Levi’s jeans, in which he stripped down to his boxer shorts in a laundrette. Finding success on the European music scene, his single, the Madonna-produced Each Time You Break My Heart, reached No 5 in the UK. He died aged 59 following a battle with cancer.
August 5, 1961 – May 7, 2021
The woman who led the way for video music stars to step into Hollywood died aged 59 from heart disease. She parlayed her turns in the Whitesnake music videos for Is This Love and Here I Go Again into a Hollywood career, appearing opposite Tom Hanks in Bachelor Party.
January 22, 1986 – May 9, 2021
The Indian actor and YouTuber Rahul Vohra died aged 35 from Covid-19. The star, who gained fame for his comedic videos on Facebook and YouTube, often posted about the social and economic realities of life in India. He continued to post throughout his hospitalisation, poignantly sharing a message on Facebook which read: “I would have lived had I received better treatment.”
Abdul Khaliq Al-Ghanim
1958 – May 18, 2021
Saudi cinema lost a great when Abdul Khaliq Al-Ghanim died aged 63 after a battle with cancer. After graduating from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad, he became a comedy pioneer in the kingdom, creating the popular satirical sketch show Tash ma Tash, which served up social commentary over 18 seasons.
January 15, 1937 – May 20, 2021
The Egyptian comedian, singer, and entertainer Samir Ghanem died aged 84 after contracting Covid-19. A stalwart of Egyptian entertainment, he left behind a legacy of about 150 films, 60 television series, several radio series and 40 stage plays, over a career spanning 60 years. “He was the best example of an artist who lived to spread joy and make everyone happy,” President Abdel Fatah El Sisi said on his Facebook page.
June 25, 1929 – May 23, 2021
The American author and illustrator, best known for his timeless children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, died aged 91. First published in 1969, the book has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, alongside Carle’s other works, including A House for Hermit Crab and Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?. His distinctive collage style complemented stories inspired by the nature walks he used to go on with his father.
“The unknown often brings fear with it,” he said. “In my books, I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message.”
April 13, 1940 – May 23, 2021
The former British racing driver died aged 81 from cancer. A barrister and president of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, he was heavily involved in Formula One, working closely alongside its founder Bernie Ecclestone. The youngest son of Sir Oswald Mosley, former leader of the British Union of Fascists, he claimed his father’s legacy made a career in politics untenable.
Lois De Banzie
May 4, 1930 – May 26, 2021
The actress, who was best known for her roles as Eleanor Roosevelt in Annie and Sister Immaculata in Sister Act, died aged 90. The Scottish-born actress also trod the boards throughout her long career, and was nominated for a Tony Award for her role in the Broadway play Morning’s At Seven.
August 7, 1942 – May 29, 2021
Best known for singing Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head and Hooked on a Feeling, the Grammy award-winning vocalist BJ Thomas died aged 78 after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
July 6, 1937 – June 13, 2021
The American actor died aged 83 from natural causes. Enjoying a five-decade-long career, he appeared in more than 160 films, and was best known for his roles in Deliverance, All the President's Men, Network and Superman. He was twice nominated for an Academy Award.
July 9, 1955 – June 14, 2021
The American actress died aged 65 after being struck by a motorised scooter in a hit-and-run collision in Manhattan. Best known for her role in Gone Girl, Lisa Banes was a respected theatre star with more than 80 films, television roles and stage appearances on her resume. She won a Theatre World Award in 1981, and also starred in 1998’s Cocktail.
Carmelito Masagnay Reyes
January 20, 1960 – June 23, 2021
Better known by his stage name Shalala, the Filipino personality and comedian died aged 61 from pulmonary tuberculosis. As well as his TV hosting and numerous radio shows, the entertainer born in Manila will be remembered for his work in the 2009 superhero film, Wapakman in which he starred alongside boxer Manny Pacquiao, as well as You and Me Against the World and Batas ng lansangan.
August 7, 1965 – June 26, 2021
The former Skid Row singer died aged 55, a month after he revealed he had been diagnosed with liver failure. Solinger was a part of the American heavy metal band from 1999 to 2015 after he was brought in to replace Sebastian Bach. “We are saddened to hear the news of our brother Johnny Solinger,” the band said.
April 24, 1930 – July 5, 2021
The celebrated Hollywood director died aged 91. Best known for directing box office hits including Superman, The Goonies and the Lethal Weapon series, the producer and director was remembered by Steven Spielberg as: "The greatest Goonie of all."
Robert Downey Sr
June 24, 1936 – July 7, 2021
The actor and father of Avengers star Robert Downey Jr died one month after celebrating his 85th birthday, having battled Parkinson’s disease for the past few years. As a filmmaker, Downey Sr was hailed as “effectively pushing forward the countercultural agenda of the day.” His actor son called him a “true maverick”.
December 11, 1922 – July 7, 2021
The "Tragedy King" of Hindi cinema died aged 98 following a long illness. In his six-decade-long career, he appeared in Jugnu, Devdas, Madhumati and Ram Aur Shyam, switching between dramatic and comedy roles throughout. In Kumar’s second career in politics, he served as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India's parliament, from 2000 to 2006.
July 18, 1991 – July 9, 2021
The son of British boxing legend Chris Eubank died in Dubai aged 29 following a heart attack. Having followed his father into boxing, he went on to become a mixed martial artist, taking part in fights in the UAE. “He was loved and respected by all who knew him,” said his father.
November 9, 1945 – July 11, 2021
The actor, most famous for playing Mac on Night Court enjoyed a varied 50-year career before his death aged 75. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Robinson appeared in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, How I Met Your Mother and My Name is Earl, returning to his love of theatre in his later years in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
April 8, 1964 – July 16, 2021
The New York rapper, whose real name was Marcel Theo Hall, died at 57 following complications from diabetes. The DJ and producer shot to fame with his track Just a Friend, with the song regularly appearing in greatest hip-hop songs of all time lists. Dubbed the "Clown Prince of Hip-Hop", his work has been sampled over the years by Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Mary J Blige and more.
April 19, 1945 – July 16, 2021
The Indian theatre, film and television actress won many awards and plaudits throughout her long career, including three National Film Awards and a Filmfare Award. The Hindi theatre veteran moved into movies and television, with memorable roles in Tamas, Mammo and Badhaai Ho, while her role in soap opera Balika Vadhu made her a fan favourite. She died aged 76 from cardiac arrest.
January 5, 1949 – July 23, 2021
Born in Zgharta, Lebanon, a member of the city's prominent El Douaihy family, Jabbour Douaihy's novel June Rain was nominated for the 2008 Arabic Booker Prize. In 2013, he won the Arab Literature Prize from Paris's Arab World Institute for The Vagrant. Throughout his career, he balanced his work as a professor of French Literature at the Lebanese University in Tripoli, along with his novel and newspaper writing. He died aged 72 after a long illness.
May 5, 1976 – July 24, 2021
The Australian actor, best known for his role of Shane Parrish in Home and Away from 1992 to 1996, died aged 45. Dieter Brummer became a name in the Australian acting scene thanks to parts in Neighbours and acclaimed crime drama Underbelly: The Golden Mile. He won the Most Popular Actor silver awards at the Logie Awards in 1995 and 1996.
June 9, 1928 – July 24, 2021
The celebrated US comedian died in July aged 93. The Tony and Emmy award winner also boasted a Grammy nomination during a career in which he went from teenage dishwasher to stand-up comic. His quick wit and self-deprecating humour eventually landed him his own TV show The Jackie Mason Show. He remained gleefully proud of once heckling Frank Sinatra so badly that he walked out of his show.
Joe Michael ‘Dusty’ Hill
May 19, 1949 – July 28, 2021
The bassist in rock band ZZ Top died aged 72. Taking on lead and backing vocals for the enduring rock group, he also played keyboard, remaining with the group for more than 50 years. The Blues and rock aficionado was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of ZZ Top in 2004.
Dennis ‘Dee Tee’ Thomas
February 9, 1951 – August 7, 2021
The saxophonist and founding member of the group Kool & The Gang died in his sleep at the age of 70. Drawing on his love of soul, funk, jazz, pop and RnB, Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas was instrumental in the band’s hits such as Celebration, Get Down On It and Jungle Boogie, remaining a member despite numerous line-up changes. “Dennis was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group,” the band said.
Dalal Abdel Aziz
January 17, 1960 – August 7, 2021
The Egyptian actress died aged 61 following a battle with Covid-19. Landing her first role in 1977, she gained attention for her part in the TV series Bint Al Ayam. Introduced to theatre by the artist Nour El Demerdash, she went on to appear in Five-Star Thieves opposite Salah Zulfikar. In 2002, she won the Best Supporting Actress award for Asrar al Banat at the National Festival for Egyptian Cinema
Siti Sarah Raissuddin
September 15, 1984 – August, 9 2021
The Malaysian singer and actress died aged 36 from Covid, three days after welcoming her fourth child. Launching her career when she became the final contestant of 2001 edition of reality show Bintang RTM, she went on to win Best New Artist, Best Pop Album and Best Album at the 2003 Music Industry Awardsawards. She competed in many reality shows, as well as appeared in the film Man Sewel Datang KL alongside her husband, Shuib Sepahtu.
July 6, 1953 – August 13, 2021
The American singer-songwriter and guitarist who died aged 68 won a Grammy in 1995 for her album Other Voices, Other Rooms. Creating folk country music throughout her decades-long career, she toured and recorded with the likes of Buddy Holly's band the Crickets, Emmylou Harris, Don McLean and Willie Nelson.
April 22, 1963 – August 16, 2021
The English comedian and actor died of cancer aged 58. Winning a British Comedy Award for Best Live Comic in 2000, he went on to perform his signature surreal stand-up for years, also moving into television for comedy panel show 8 Out of 10 Cats, as well as appearances on Have I Got News for You, QI and They Think It's All Over. “Sean was a brilliant comic, he was a wonderful man – a very kind, generous friend and I miss him greatly,” said his friend and fellow comic, Bill Bailey.
February 7, 1959 – August 22, 2021
The saxophonist for British reggae band UB40 died from cancer at the age of 62. A founding member of the group back in 1978, he helped turn the Birmingham band into a global success, selling more than 100 million albums worldwide.
June 2, 1941 – August 24, 2021
The Rolling Stones drummer died aged 80 after a lifetime spent in the spotlight in one of the world’s most famous bands. Widely regarded as one of the greatest drummers of his generation, Charlie Watts shunned celebrity life and enjoyed a lifelong appreciation for art and jazz. “Charlie Watts was our mainstay,” fellow Rolling Stone Keith Richards told Apple Music. “You took Charlie, everything fell apart.”
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
March 20, 1936 – August 29, 2021
The Jamaican record producer and singer died in his home country at the age of 85. A pioneer of dub music, he was one of the first producers to remix and use studio effects to create new sounds. Throughout his illustrious career, he worked with Bob Marley and The Wailers, Beastie Boys, The Clash and more. He released more than 85 studio, live and compilation albums in his lifetime.
November 15, 1929 – August 29, 2021
The American actor, best remembered for playing Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off series Lou Grant, died aged 91. Over the course of his career he won seven Emmys and played opposite John Wayne in the 1966 classic Western El Dorado. He also served as president of the Screen Actors Guild.
December 12, 1980 – September 2, 2021
Indian actor, host and model Siharth Shukla died from a heart attack aged 40. Appearing in Hindi television and films, he was lauded for his roles in Balika Vadhu and Dil Se Dil Tak, and went on to win reality shows Bigg Boss 13 and Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi 7.
November 17, 1981 – September 5, 2021
“Stunning, unique, crazy, quirky, kind and soft-hearted,” is how Sarah Harding’s former Girls Aloud bandmate Cheryl Cole, described the singer, actress and model who died aged 39 from breast cancer. “Writing the book has been cathartic,” Harding told The Times of her memoir, Hear Me Out, before she died. “It’s made me realise I’ve had a full life and been able to achieve things the teenage me could only ever have dreamt of.”
Michael K Williams
November 22, 1966 – September 6, 2021
The actor, best known for his role as Omar Little in acclaimed TV show The Wire, died aged 54 in his Brooklyn penthouse from an accidental overdose. Throughout his career, Michael K Williams gravitated towards complex characters, including Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire, for which he won a Screen Actor’s Guild award.
“Omar is sensitive and so am I,” he told The Hollywood Reporter of his beloved character. “And I’m passionate, and my sensitivity and my vulnerability is what makes me volatile.”
September 14, 1952 – September 6, 2021
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Sunil Perera remains one of the most influential musicians in Sri Lankan music history. Lead vocalist of The Gypsies, he was closely associated with Sri Lanka's baila genre of music, regularly addressing social and political subjects in his song-writing. He died aged 68 after contracting Covid-19, in the same year The Gypsies celebrated their golden anniversary.
April 9, 1933 – September 6, 2021
French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, best associated with the New Wave of cinema that became synonymous with the 1960s, died aged 88. Hailed as a "national hero" by French President Emmanuel Macron, he was considered to be the Humphrey Bogart of France, appearing in dozens of films during his 50-year career, including Breathless, That Man From Rio and Ace of Aces. His remains were buried in the famed Parisian cemetery Montparnasse alongside his father, the sculptor Paul Belmondo.
October 17, 1959 – September 14, 2021
The comedian and Saturday Night Live alumnus died following a nine-year battle with cancer, aged 61. Tributes poured in from comedy greats including Jim Carrey, Steve Martin, Conan O’Brien, Seth Rogen and Jon Stewart, who wrote: "No one could make you break like Norm Macdonald. Hilarious and unique."
July 30, 1940 – September 16, 2021
The English entrepreneur and inventor Clive Sinclair died aged 81. Best known for being a pioneer in the computer industry in the 1970s and early 1980s, he produced the Sinclair ZX80, which was the UK's first mass-market home computer for less than £100 ($134). His moves into personal transport include the C5 and folding A-bike, innovations now considered ahead of their time. He was knighted in 1983 for his contributions to the personal computer industry in the UK.
February 20, 1940 – September 19, 2021
The English professional footballer Jimmy Greaves, who died aged 81, remains England's fifth-highest international goal scorer with 44 goals, as well as Premiership club Tottenham Hotspur's highest-ever goal scorer with 266 goals. A member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team, he enjoyed success after retiring as one half of football pundit duo Saint and Greavsie on British television, and was awarded an Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2021 for service to football.
Melvin Van Peebles
August 21, 1932 – September 21, 2021
The American actor, filmmaker, playwright, novelist, and composer was dubbed "the godfather of Black cinema". His directorial debut, 1967’s The Story of a Three-Day Pass was shot in France, as it was difficult for a black American director to get work at the time in the US. He wrote the book, music and lyrics for the stage musical Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death, which was nominated for seven Tony Awards. He died in New York aged 89.
February 20, 1964 – September 21, 2021
Best known for playing Stanford Blatch in Sex and the City, the beloved actor died from pancreatic cancer aged 57. During his three decade-long career, he appeared in Hawaii Five-O, Supergirl and as Mozzie in the long-running White Collar. Garson had recently finished filming the SATC revival And Just Like That. His co-star Sarah Jessica Parker posted a social media message saying: “Willie, I will miss everything about you.”
June 5, 1956 – September 22, 2021
The British theatre, television and film director died aged 65. After a childhood spent travelling the world because of his father’s job as a diplomat, Roger Michell settled in the UK, becoming best known for directing the films Notting Hill, Changing Lanes and Venus, as well as the acclaimed 1993 TV film, The Buddha of Suburbia.
July 20, 1938 – September 27, 2021
The English professional footballer spent 11 years with Liverpool FC, winning two league titles and an FA Cup. A member of the England team which won the 1966 World Cup, he played in all of England's six games and scored three times. Known as "Sir Roger" by Liverpool supporters, the title became official when he was awarded an MBE in 2000 for services to football. He died aged 83.
May 22, 1948 – October 11, 2021
The Indian actor and screenwriter Nedumudi Venu, who hailed from Kerala, appeared in more than 500 films, becoming a respected statesman of Malayalam cinema. Also trying his hand at directing, Venu won three National Film Awards and six Kerala State Film Awards throughout his career. He died aged 73 and was cremated with full state honours.
Khaled Al Siddiq
1945 – October 14, 2021
Acclaimed Kuwaiti film director Khaled Al Siddiq died aged 76 after a life spent immersed in his beloved cinema. A pioneer of regional cinema, he directed 1972’s Cruel Sea, the first feature film directed and produced by a Gulf citizen, which was chosen as the Kuwaiti entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 45th Academy Awards. The film won first prize at the 1972 Youth Film Festival in Damascus, as well as the Fipresci Prize at the Venice Film Festival that year.
James Michael Tyler
May 28, 1962 – October 24, 2021
American actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his recurring role as coffee shop manager Gunther on the sitcom Friends, died from cancer aged 59. Often referred to as the "seventh friend", Tyler enjoyed a career in Hollywood that included working as an assistant film editor and production assistant, before moving into acting and landing his famous role.
“Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives,” said co-star Jennifer Aniston. “You will be so missed.”
May 2, 1933 – November 2, 2021
The celebrated Syrian tenor Sabah Fakhri died aged 88 after a remarkable career spanning 70 years in music. A muezzin at Al Rawda Mosque, Aleppo in his youth, he studied at the Academy of Arabic Music of Aleppo and then at the Damascus Music Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1948. He adopted the stage name Fakhri in honour of his mentor, Syrian nationalist leader Fakhri al-Barudi. Speaking of his death, Kuwaiti composer Fahed Alnasser said: "And the light of music went out in the Levant.”
December 12, 1928 – November 4, 2021
The Canadian-born presenter and performer Lionel Blair, a stalwart of British television from the 1960s to the 1980s, died this year at the age of 92. Considered a British institution, Blair worked as an actor, dancer and choreographer, but was best known for his presenting work, including Name That Tune and Give Us A Clue.
July 22, 1995 – November 5, 2021
The Brazilian singer-songwriter Marilia Mendonca died tragically in an aeroplane crash in southern Brazil at the age of 26, while on her way to perform a concert. Earning the nickname ‘the queen of suffering’, for her soulful ballads, Mendonca shot to prominence in 2016 with the release of her eponymous live album, which went triple platinum. The track Infiel became one of the most played songs in Brazil, achieving triple diamond disc status.
June 24, 1957 – November 6, 2021
The former vocalist and founding member of British reggae group UB40 died aged 64 following a short illness. Terence Wilson, better known by his stage name Astro, sang vocals on the band’s hits Red Red Wine and Can't Help Falling In Love, later forming a breakaway band in 2013.
January 9, 1933 – November 13, 2021
The prolific South African novelist Wilbur Smith died in his Cape Town home at the age of 88. In a career spent writing historical fiction about South Africa from the viewpoints of both black and white cultures, as well as a series set in ancient Egypt, Smith wrote 49 books and sold more than 140 million worldwide. “I always think I am from the 17th century”, he said. “I have no interest in technology, or to rush, rush, rush through life.”
February 24, 1925 – November 14, 2021
The famed Lebanese-American writer and artist Etel Adnan died in Paris at the age of 96. Adnan was born in 1925 to a Greek mother and Syrian father, and raised in Beirut. Studying at French language schools in Lebanon, she then read philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris. She started painting in the late 1950s, while at the same time worked as a professor of philosophy in California. Perhaps her most famous literary work is her 1977 novel Sitt Marie Rose, which focuses on the character of Marie Rose Boulos.
"This poetic and colourful soul, extremely sweet, sang our suffering, our joy and our loves," said Jack Lang, director of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. "She was a rare and complete artist whose talent shone with life and shimmering intelligence.”
Soheir El Bably
February 14, 1937 – November 21, 2021
Egyptian actress Soheir El Bably, revered for her theatrical and cinematic performances, died aged 84 after falling into a diabetic coma. Born in 1937 in the Damietta Governorate of Egypt, Al Bably grew up in Mansoura, capital of the Dakahlia Governorate. Her talents for acting and music became evident at a young age and she was encouraged by her father to join the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts, as well as the Institute of Music.
Al Bably began her career at a young age and during the peak of Egypt’s golden age of cinema. She released dozens of films for four decades. She retired from acting in 1997, but returned in 2006 with the series Qalb Habiba (A Lover’s Heart).
March 22, 1930 – November 26, 2021
The legendary American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, considered one of the most important figures in 20th-century musical theatre, died aged 91. Tributes poured in from the likes of Hugh Jackman, Meryl Streep, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Steven Spielberg for the man who wrote the lyrics to 1957’s West Side Story and 1959’s Gypsy.
Some of his most acclaimed works as a composer and lyricist include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Sunday in the Park with George. Throughout his career he won eight Tonys, an Oscar, eight Grammys, a Pulitzer Prize, a Laurence Olivier Award and was awarded the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
September 30, 1980 – November 28, 2021