Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at the bold-faced names we lost in 2021, starting with this media legend… Conservative talk radio host and political commentator Rush Limbaugh — one of the most polarizing yet influential media figures of recent decades — died on Feb. 17 a year after revealing he'd been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, wife Kathryn announced. He was 70. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump at the State of the Union address in 2020 days after announcing his cancer battle.
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Jazz pianist Chick Corea, a 23-time Grammy winner, died at 79 on Feb. 9. The wildly talented musician passed away "from a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently," his team shared on his website. Chick left a message for fans that read, in part, "I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright. It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It's not only that the world needs more artists, it's also just a lot of fun."
Larry Flynt, the polarizing figure who founded Hustler magazine in 1974 and went on to found an adult entertainment empire, died at his Hollywood Hills home on Feb. 10 at 78, nephew Jimmy Flynt Jr. told CNN. Family sources further told TMZ he passed away from heart failure. Larry spent more than 40 years in a wheelchair as he was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by a serial killer in 1978. Many also know his story thanks to seeing Woody Harrelson play him in the 1996 Oscar-nominated movie "The People vs. Larry Flynt," which also chronicled his First Amendment legal battles.
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Mary Wilson — a founding member of The Supremes, known as Motown's most successful act in the 1960s and the No. 1 female recording group of all time — "passed away suddenly this evening" at her home in Henderson, Nevada, friend and longtime rep Jay Schwartz told CNN on Feb. 8. She was 76. Fellow Supremes singer Diana Ross tweeted, "I just woke up to this news, my condolences to you Mary's family. I am reminded that each day is a gift, I have so many wonderful memories of our time together 'The Supremes' will live on, in our hearts," while Motown Records founder Berry Gordy called Mary "a trailblazer" and "quite a star in her own right."
Boxing legend Leon Spinks passed away at a hospital in Henderson, Nevada, on Feb. 5 after a five-year battle with prostate and other cancers, a family spokesperson confirmed the following day. The former Marine and gold-medal-winning Olympic boxer was 67. He'll long be remembered for becoming the heavyweight champion of the world in 1978 when, in only his eighth professional fight, he beat Muhammad Ali in a split decision — delivering one of the greatest boxing upsets ever.
Christopher Plummer died after a fall at his home in Connecticut on Feb. 5, his family confirmed, according to Deadline. He was 91. Over the course of his illustrious career, the Canadian actor starred in "The Sound of Music," racked up Emmy nominations (and two wins) and won an Oscar, a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe for his work in "Beginners." He recently starred in the 2019 hit "Knives Out."
On Jan. 29, ABKCO Music & Records announced that guitarist Hilton Valentine — a founding member of the rock band The Animals — had died at 77. He was, his band's label said in a statement, "a pioneering guitar player influencing the sound of rock and roll for decades to come."
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Hal Holbrook passed away on Jan. 23 at his home in Beverly Hills, his assistant confirmed to The New York Times on Feb. 1. He was 95. Hal — who lost wife Dixie Carter in 2010 — won a Tony Award for his Broadway performance as Mark Twain in his long-running one-man show then took home an Emmy, one of five he earned over his long career, for his work as the American novelist in the television version. The "All the President's Men" and "Lincoln" actor also became the oldest performer, at the time, to be nominated for an Oscar when he received a nod for his work in "Into the Wild" at 82 in 2008.
Dustin Diamond died on the morning of Feb. 1 — just a few weeks after he was hospitalized and diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma, more commonly known as lung cancer. He was 44. The actor shot into the spotlight playing Samuel "Screech" Powers on "Saved by the Bell" in the early '90s.
Captain Sir Tom Moore — the 100-year-old WWII veteran who catapulted to fame in 2020 when he helped raise more than $43 million for Britain's National Health Service charities in the early days of the U.K.'s coronavirus lockdowns by walking more than 100 laps in the garden of his home in Bedfordshire, England — died after being diagnosed with COVID-19, his family announced on Feb. 2. Captain Sir Tom, who was knighted for his fundraising efforts by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2020, was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 31 after being treated for pneumonia and testing positive for the coronavirus the previous week, Sky News reported. "The Queen is sending a private message of condolence to the family of Captain Sir Tom Moore," Buckingham Palace tweeted. "Her Majesty very much enjoyed meeting Captain Sir Tom and his family at Windsor last year. Her thoughts and those of the Royal Family are with them."
Grammy-nominated Scottish electronic and avant-garde pop artist SOPHIE is dead at 34. The trans performer, producer and DJ, who notably also worked with other artists including Charli XCX and Madonna, perished in what her music labels, Transgressive and Future Classic, described as a "terrible accident" at her home in Athens, Greece, on Jan. 30. "True to her spirituality she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell. She will always be here with us," the labels' statement added.
Actress Cicely Tyson passed away on Jan. 28, her manager confirmed. She was 96. The Tony Award winner — who earned an Oscar nomination for her performance as a sharecropper's wife in "Sounder" — earned 16 Emmy nominations over her long career and won three, including two for her lead performance in "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman." Cicely also took home an honorary Academy Award in 2018, making her the first Black woman ever to do so, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation's highest civilian honor — in 1996. Hollywood's biggest stars including Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna, Zendaya, Viola Davis, Tyler Perry, Reese Witherspoon and dozens more took to social media to mourn as they learned the news.
Cloris Leachman — the most nominated actress in Emmys history, who's tied with Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the most wins ever with eight — died of natural causes at her home in Encinitas, California, on Jan. 26. She was 94. The comedy icon, who also won an Oscar for her performance in "The Last Picture Show," became a household name in the '70s when she starred on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." She even scored her own spinoff, "Phyllis," for which she won two Emmys and a Golden Globe.
News outlets confirmed on Jan. 27 that NBA reporter and analyst Sekou Smith, who covered the league for decades, had died from COVID-19. He was 48. "We are all heartbroken over Sekou's tragic passing," read a statement from Turner Sports, which operates NBA TV and NBA.com — where Sekou worked for the last decade-plus. "His commitment to journalism and the basketball community was immense and we will miss his warm, engaging personality."
Character actor Bruce Kirby — who was perhaps best known for his work on "Columbo" and "L.A. Law" — died in Los Angeles on Jan. 24. Bruce, who was 95, was preceded in death by his son, actor Bruno Kirby, who passed away in 2006 from complications of leukemia.
On Jan. 23, veteran journalist and radio host Larry King, 87, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Larry had been hospitalized amid a battle with the coronavirus in late December. His sixth wife, Julia Alexander, told the New York Post that Larry died from COVID-19, but his most recent wife, Shawn Southwick King — whom Larry was in the midst of divorcing when he passed away — told "Entertainment Tonight" that the cause of death "was an infection, it was sepsis." Larry had famously, over the years, endured lung cancer, chronic leukemia, a heart attack, a stroke and more. "He was finally ready to go, I will tell you that. You know, he never wanted to go but his sweet little body was just, it had just been hit so many times with so many things and once we heard the word COVID, all of our hearts just sunk," Shawn added. "But he beat it, you know, he beat it, but it did take its toll and then the unrelated infection finally is what took him, but boy, he was not gonna go down easily."
MLB legend Hank Aaron — widely regarded as one of the best baseball players of all time — died on Jan. 22. The Hall of Famer and Atlanta Braves star, who hit 755 home runs during his career, was 86.
On Jan. 18, singer Jimmie Rodgers — who was best known for his late '50s hits like "Honeycomb" and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" — died from kidney disease in Palm Desert, California. He'd also tested positive for COVID-19, publicist Alan Eichler told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 87.
Actor Gregory Sierra, who's known for his supporting roles on '70s sitcoms like "Sanford and Son" and "Barney Miller," died from cancer in Laguna Woods, California, on Jan. 4, his family confirmed to Deadline a few weeks later. He was 83.
Croatian actress Mira Furlan — who's best known for her performance as Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the 1990s sci-fi TV series Babylon 5 — died on Jan. 20. Mira, who also appeared on shows including "Lost," was 65.
Socialite, model and beauty businessman Harry Brant — the younger son of supermodel Stephanie Seymour and publisher and businessman Peter Brant — was found dead at 24 on Jan. 17, his family confirmed to The New York Times. The New York "it" boy died of an accidental prescription drug overdose after battling addiction issues for years, according to his family. "We will forever be saddened that his life was cut short by this devastating disease," they told the Times in a statement. "He achieved a lot in his 24 years, but we will never get the chance to see how much more Harry could have done." In the years before his death, Harry worked as a columnist for his father's Interview magazine, walked runways for notable fashion designers and, with big brother Peter II, launched a unisex makeup line with MAC.
Phil Spector — the legendary music producer known for his groundbreaking "Wall of Sound" technique and wild success crafting rock 'n' roll and pop songs for music's biggest names in the 1960s and '70s — died on Jan. 16 while serving a lengthy prison sentence for the murder of Lana Clarkson. He was 81. He was "pronounced deceased of natural causes at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at an outside hospital. His official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office," according to a statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. TMZ reported that he died of COVID-19-related complications. According to the webloid, the man who produced hits including The Righteous Brothers' "You Lost that Lovin' Feeling" and "Unchained Melody," The Ronettes' "Be My Baby," The Beatles' "Let It Be" album and John Lennon's "Imagine" was hospitalized with COVID-19 four weeks earlier but returned to prison after initially recovering. He then, TMZ reported, suffered breathing issues and was hospitalized again before he passed away.
Actor Peter Mark Richman, who's best known for his recurring role as Reverend Snow on "Three's Company" and Carrington attorney Andrew Laird on "Dynasty," died of natural causes at home in Woodland Hills, California, on Jan. 14, his rep told People magazine. Peter was 93.
New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain died on Jan. 13 at 69. "Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and half years," the music star's widow, Wanda O'Kelley Mizrahi, wrote on Facebook. "Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease. While we grieve his loss, we know that he is finally at peace and out of pain. Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let's send this beautiful doll on his way."
Just two days after a report revealed that Siegfried Fischbacher of the world-famous performance duo Siegfried & Roy was "terminally ill with pancreatic cancer" and was being cared for by hospice workers, the magician who for decades entertained audiences in Las Vegas, often with the help of his white tigers, died from the disease at his home in Las Vegas on Jan. 13, his rep confirmed. Siegfried, 81, was preceded in death by his performing partner, Roy Horn, who passed away from complications of COVID-19 in May 2020.
On Jan. 10, actor John Reilly's heartbroken daughter Caitlin revealed he'd passed away at 86. Though John appeared on dozens of shows over the decades including the original "Dallas," "Paper Dolls" and "Beverly Hills, 90210," he was best known for playing retired spy Sean Donely on "General Hospital." Filmmaker Judd Apatow in 2014 called John "an awesome actor and the reason the other John has a C" in his professional name, referring to famed comedy and character actor John C. Reilly.
Country music singer-songwriter Ed Bruce, who crafted and performed hits like "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," died of natural causes in Clarksville, Tennessee, on Jan. 8. He was 81.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, died following "a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest at his home" on Jan. 7, according to the MLB team. He was 93.
Broadway actress Marion Ramsey, who was best known for her role as Officer Laverne Hooks in the "Police Academy" movie franchise, died in Los Angeles on Jan. 7, her manager confirmed. She was 73.
Actor Dearon "Deezer D" Thompson — who was best known for his performance as nurse Malik McGrath on the long-running NBC medical drama "ER" — died after being found unresponsive in his Los Angeles home on Jan. 7. His brother Marshawn told TMZ their family believes he had a heart attack. Deezer, who also appeared in movies including "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion," was 55.
British filmmaker and documentarian Michael Apted died in Los Angeles on Jan. 7, the Directors Guild of America announced in a statement. He was 79. "Coal Miner's Daughter," the James Bond movie "The World is Not Enough," "Gorky Park," "Gorillas in the Mist," "Nell" and "Enough" are among the many films he helmed.
Actress Tanya Roberts died on Jan. 4 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She suffered from a urinary tract infection that spread and caused sepsis, longtime partner Lance O'Brien and spokesman Mike Pingel told NBC News. Tanya, who was 65, memorably starred in the 1984 James Bond movie "A View to a Kill" and 1982's "The Beastmaster" as well as television's "That '70s Show" and "Charlie's Angels."
Barbara Shelley, the British actress best known for her work in horror films like 1958's "Blood of the Vampire," 1960's "Village of the Damned" and 1966's "Dracula: Prince of Darkness," died from complications of COVID-19 on Jan. 4, the BBC reported.
Gerry and the Pacemakers frontman Gerry Marsden, whose band was a rival to The Beatles in Liverpool's early '60s music scene, died on Jan. 3 in a hospital in England from complications of a heart infection, British media reported. He was 78.
New York Times bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey died on Jan. 3 from cancer at 59, his publicist at Penguin Random House, Emily Can, told People magazine. His many books include the 1996 debut novel "Sister, Sister" as well as "Chasing Destiny," "Liar's Game," "Between Lovers," "Thieves' Paradise" and "Sleeping with Strangers" as well as the Marvel comic book "Storm" miniseries.
Famed Australian cake designer Kerry Vincent, who served as a judge on "Food Network Challenge" from 2006 to 2012, died on Jan. 2. She was 75. "Being a very private person when it came to all things not cake, she did not want to put her illness out there to the public. Unfortunately her fight has come to an end but she will no longer have any pain," the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show — an organization she co-founded — said in a statement.
Actor and singer-songwriter George Gerdes, 72, died on Jan. 1 in a Glendale, California, hospital, after suffering a brain aneurysm a day earlier, his partner, Judy Johns, told The Hollywood Reporter. He appeared on dozens of TV shows and movies including "Miami Vice," "Seinfeld," "L.A. Law," "The X-Files," "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy" and more. "Bosch" co-star Titus Welliver described him as "an actor's actor and deeply kind man" and pal Michael McKean called him "a wonderful songwriter, poet, and actor, much beloved by everyone who knew him. You would have liked him, too."