In Memoriam 2023

In memoriam 2023. This is a list of well-known celebrities and public figures that have passed away this year, in reverse chronological order. You might take note of the unusually high number of people in this list who lived to age 100 or older.

December 27. Gaston Glock (b. 1929), age 94. Austrian engineer and founder of the company that makes Glock pistols.

December 26. Tommy Smothers (b. 1937), age 86. Part of the Smothers Brothers comedy duo, alongside brother Richard. Also known for playing Guitar with John Lennon during the Montreal bed-in for the song “Give Peace a Chance”.

Laura_Lynch
Laura Lynch

Decenmber 22. Laura Lynch (b. 1958), age 65. One of the founding members of The Dixie Chicks.

December 16. Pete Lucas (b. 1950) age 73. Former singer and guitarist of the British group Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Also played with The Troggs.

December 16. Colin Burgess (b. 1946) age 77. Original drummer for AC/DC.

December 15. Bob Johnson (b. 1944) age 79. Former guitarist, singer and songwriter for Steeleye Span.

December 14. Joseph Wilson (b. 1996) age 27. YouTuber known as “Mitten Squad” with 1.4 million viewers and subscribers.

Norman_Lear
Norman Lear

December 6. Norman Lear (b. 1922), age 101. Producer of All In the Family, and a host of other highly-rated sitcoms in the 70s and 80s. Spinoff series included The Jeffersons and Maude. Lear was also the founder of the organization “People for the American Way”. Other sitcoms included Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, and Good Times.

December 5. Denny Lane (b. 1944), age 79. Former band member with the Moody Blues, and later, Wings.

myles goodwin
Myles Goodwyn

December 3. Myles Goodwyn (b. 1948), age 75. Founding member and lead singer of April Wine. Also named to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Readers of my blog might remember my chiding April Wine for their crappy album covers, inside which had real gems of rock music, which contributed to earning the band a place on the Candian Walk of Fame, as well as the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

December 3. Geordie Walker (b. 1958) age 64. One of the original guitarists of the post-punk band The Killing Joke.

chad allan
Chad Allan

December 2. Chad Allan (b. 1943), age 80. Founding member and lead singer of The Guess Who. The Vancouver Sun has him as passing about a week earlier, but a Facebook post from Burton Cummings and a CBC report are in agreement with December 2.

December 1. Sandra Day-O’Connor (b. 1930), age 93. Former chancellor of the College of William and Mary; retired American Supreme Court justice – the first woman to have ever served in the Supreme Court.

November 30. Shane MacGowan (b. 1958) age 65. Former songwriter and frontman for The Pogues.

November 29. Henry Kissinger (b. 1923), age 100. Served in the US governmentt as Secretary of State; Chairman of the 9/11 Commission; and was also chancellor of the College of William and Mary just before Sandra Day O’Connor.

Rosalynn_Carter
Rosalynn Carter

November 19. Rosalynn Carter (b. 1927), age 96. Former first lady to President Jimmy Carter; and before that first lady in Georgia when Jimmy Carter was governor there.

November 11. Peter Moore (b. 1956), age 67. Produced The Trinity Sessions, an album by The Cowboy Junkies, a popular album known for its sparse production and shoestring budget.

October 28. Matthew Perry (b. 1969), age 54. Actor appearing on Friends, and earlier on Ally McBeal.

October 25. Elizabeth Gray (b. 1937), age 86. Producer for CBC Radio and TV, producing for Cross-Country Checkup, The Journal, This Country in the Morning, and Morningside. Also guest hosted for As It Happens, replacing Barbara Frum.

Carla Bley
Carla Bley

October 17. Carla Bley (b. 1936) age 87. American Jazz musician best known for being part of the Free Jazz movement in the 1960s.

October 15. Suzanne Somers (b. 1947), age 76. Best known for her work as Chrissy Snow in the sitcom Three’s Company, but also played the hooker driving the Thunderbird in American Grafitti, who courted a naive Curt, played by a boyish Richard Dreyfuss.

Karthyayani Amma
Karthyayani Amma

October 10. Karthyayani Amma (b. 1922) age 101. Wikipedia refers to this native of India as a “mature student”, which is an understatement, having passed a literacy exam with top marks at age 96, five years before her death. She became a Commonwealth of Learning Goodwill Ambassador in 2019, and was awarded the Nari Shakti Puraskar award the following year, which is the highest civilian honor in India, when she was 98.

September 29. Diane Feinstein (b. 1933), age 90. American Senator, and before that, Mayor of San Francisco. She died while holding office as a Senator.

September 7. Peter C. Newman (b. 1929), age 94. Canadian journalist, editor and author. Wrote The Canadian Establishment in three volumes in 1975, which raised the bar on business reporting.

Gary Wright
Gary Wright

September 4. Gary Wright (b. 1943), age 80. American musician, wrote, composed and sung 70s hits Dreamweaver and Love is Alive.

September 1. Jimmy Buffet (b. 1946), age 76. Was the ‘roguish bard of island escapism’ (NYT). Grand Poobah of the Parrot Heads. Sang of the woes of tropical pirates, smugglers, beach bums and barflies that otherwise only they would know. Also, owner and CEO of the Maragritaville chain of restaurants and resorts.

August 28. Samuel Wurzelbacher (b. 1974), age 49. Known as Joe the Plumber, who became an icon of the middle class by politicians like John McCain who used his name in televised debates in 2008 against Barack Obama. I have written about him before.

Bob Barker
Bob Barker

August 26. Bob Barker (b. 1924), age 99. Host of The Price is Right, and for a time, Truth or Consequences. The Price is Right was the longest-running game show in television history.

August 18. James Buckley (b. 1923), age 100. U. S. Senator and son of William F. Buckley.

August 9. Robbie Robertson (b. 1943), age 80. Canadian solo artist and founding member of The Band.

July 31. Paul Reubens (b. 1953), age 70. Known as Pee Wee Herman.

Sinead O'Connor
Sinead O’Connor

July 26. Sinéad O’Connor (b. 1967), age 56. Famous Irish pop singer. But she wouldn’t be famous for singing Danny Boy.

July 25. Pat Carney (b. 1935), age 88. Was a Conservative MP under the Mulroney conservatives; later appointed to the Senate.

July 21. Tony Bennett (b. 1926), age 96. Successful singer and actor. Won 20 Grammies and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg

June 16. Daniel Ellsberg (b. 1931), age 92. Leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press, disclosing many American lies about Vietnam. He also was intricately involved in Watergate, since his psychiatrist’s office was being wiretapped.

June 12. Treat Williams (b. 1951), age 71. Played in scores of major films and television shows; winner of a Golden Globe.

June 8. Pat Robertson (b. 1930), age 93. Teleevangelist and one-time host of The 700 Club. Also held a job as chancellor of Regents University, whose campus is in Virginia.

Astrud Gilberto
Astrud Gilberto, looking straight ahead, not at the camera.

June 6. Astrud Gilberto (b. 1940), age 83. Brazilian vocalist, who sang the 1963 bossa nova hit The Girl From Ipanema, and is partly responsible for popularizing the bossa nova genre outside of Brazil. Made dozens of albums and compilations up until 2008, mostly all bossa nova.

May 24. Tina Turner (b. 1939), age 83. Had several hits since the 1960s with ex-husband Ike Turner. Hit her career peak as a soloist in the 1980s and later.

Gordon Lightfoot
Gordon Lightfoot

May 1. Gordon Lightfoot (b. 1939), age 84. Canadian Music Hal l of Famer, as well as a Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer, winner of 16 Juno awards for his contribution to folk, rock and pop music genres.

April 27. Jerry Springer (b. 1944) age 79. Had his heyday during the ’90s “tabloid talk show” craze. Before that he was mayor of Cincinati for two years.

Harry Belafonte
Harry Belafonte

April 25. Harry Belafonte (b. 1927), age 96. Had the first million selling album Calypso, on Billboard, and penned many chart-topping singles in the Calypso genre which crossed over into popular music. Had a high profile in the civil rights movement, having helped to get Rev. Martin Luther King out of Birmingham Prison. At age 32 he was the most highly paid black performer in the United States. I have written about him before. Here is another article.

April 25. Harry Potts (b. 1921), age 102. Oldest survivor of the sinking of the USS Arizona, which was part of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour.

Al Jaffee
Al Jaffee, seen here holding the Eisner Award, also won a Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society.

April 10. Al Jaffee (b. 1921), age 102. Cartoonist for Mad Magazine in the 1970s and onward, and was known for the Mad Fold-In on the inside back cover of every issue of the magazine. Also known for his “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” comics which sporadically appeard in many issues. All of his work for Mad was freelance. Despite that, he was a regular contributor that helped set the style for Mad. Winner of the Reuben award in 2007, which put him up there with Charles Schulz, Matt Groening, Gary Larson, Scott Adams, Garry Trudeau, and other cartooning bigwigs. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2013. The Eisner Awards are comic industry awards, comparable to the Academy Awards.

March 26. Paul Schmidt (b. 1986), age 37. Famous for being murdered in front of a Starbucks in Vancouver by Inderdeep Gosal, who chose to murder him rather than not vape in front of Paul’s toddler. Or was he famous because his bleeding to death from the neck after being stabbed was being filmed on cellphone by Alex Bodger, a clueless kid who uploaded it to TikTok for the lulz and didn’t call the police, choosing instead to stand there and watch him die? Not sure.

March 23. Tony Abbott (b. 1930), age 92. Former Canadian MP (Peel South, Lib.), holding several portfolios in Pierre Trudeau cabinet.

Jim Gordon
Jim Gordon

March 13. Jim Gordon (b. 1945), age 77. Drummer for Traffic and Derek and The Dominoes; wrote Layla; murdered his mother because “the voices told him to”. Was diagnosed with schizophrenia while in jail for murder. He died while still incarcerated, after 39 years in a California prison.

March 10. Jerrold Samuels (b. 1938), age 84. Famous for his 1966 one hit wonder They’re Coming to Take Me Away! Ha-Haaa!, which reached #3 on Billboard, under his pseudonym Napoleon XIV. He also wrote hits for other artists, including Sammy Davis Jr.

March 2. Wayne Shorter (b. 1933), age 89. Famous jazz saxophonist. Co-founder of the 1970s jazz-fusion band Weather Report. Before that, he played with the Miles Davis Quintet. Winner of 12 Grammy awards over his career.

Gordon Pinsent
Gordon Pinsent

February 25. Gordon Pinsent (b. 1930), age 92. Famous Canadian actor, playing in mostly Newfoundland-themed and Canadian-themed film, TV and theater. He was a recipient of The Order of Canada, as well as having been awarded several Genies, and Actra awards.

February 21. Paul Berg (b. 1927), age 96. Won the Nobel Prize for his work in genetic engineering. Invented the concept of “recombinant DNA”.

February 19. Richard Belzer (b. 1944), age 78. The recognizable face from Law and Order SVU was a former standup comic at an earlier time. He was the warm-up comedian for Saturday Night Live, between 1975 and 1980.

Raquel Welch,
Raquel Welch,

February 15. Raquel Welch (b. 1940), age 82. A successful actress who became an interenational sex symbol in the 1970s and 1980s.

February 8. Burt Bacharach (b. 1928), age 94. One of the most influential popular musical composers of the 20th century. Composed, wrote lyrics and produced songs for Marty Robbins, Perry Como, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, B. J. Thomas, The Carpenters and Dionne Warwick, often in collaboration with Hal David.

Cindy Williams
Cindy Williams, alongside Ron Howard, in the 1973 film American Grafitti.

January 30. Cindy Williams (b. 1947), age 75. Played Shirley Feeney in the sitcom Laverne and Shirley. Earlier roles were in the series Room 222, and Love, American Style. She also appeared in the 1973 film American Grafitti as Laurie Henderson, the date of character Steve Bolander, played by Ron Howard. She had also played in scores of other film and TV roles before and since.

January 30. Bobby Hull (b. 1939), age 84. Ontario-born player for the Chicago Black Hawks in the NHL. He had set many points records in the 1960s and 1970s. Joined the WHA and played for the Winnipeg Jets in 1972. After he retired, he was made Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978.

David Crosby
David Crosby

January 19. David Crosby (b. 1941), age 81. Member of The Byrds, and then the group Crosby, Stills and Nash. And he, like many, protested Vietnam. He also had 8 solo albums during his life. He also appeared as a guest musician on the albums of many other artists such as Joni Mitchell, Jefferson Airplane, Jackson Browne, Dave Mason, Art Garfunkel, Elton John, Bob Dylan, and dozens of others.

Gina Lollobrigida
Gina Lollobrigida, as she looked in 1956.

January 16. Gina Lollobrigida (actress) (b. 1927), age 95. Another international sex symbol with a high profile in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, although she began her acting career working for Howard Hughes at RKO in America. She was later a photojournalist, and later, a politician. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

January 12. Lisa Marie Presley (b. 1968), age 54. American singer and songwriter; most famous for being the only daughter of Elvis Presley, although she did produce two studio albums that reached the top 10 on Billboard in the States between 2003 and 2005.

January 10. Jeff Beck (b. 1944) age 78. In 1965, he Replaced Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds, joining Keith Reif, Chris Dreja, Paul Samwell-Smith, Jim McCarty and later Jimmy Page to help release the only hits The Yardbirds had during his 20-month stay. In 1971, formed the Jeff Beck Group which lasted about 2 years; and went mostly solo or had brief collaborations with other major artists in the years since. He has reiceved 8 Grammy awards.

Visits: 148

Dennis Hof Joins Silent Majority, Takes Nevada by Landslide

Dennis Hof, Heidi Fleiss, Ron Jeremy (cropped).jpg
Dennis Hof

Dennis Hof (1946-2018) has been part of the Silent Majority for the past two weeks, and is now Republican Representative-elect of the 36th District of the State of Nevada House of Assembly. Readers of my website will know that this is not the first time a dead man has won an election. Indeed, dead people are an integral part of the American democratic system, either acting as voters, or those who are running for election. The dead cannot speak for themselves, and there are many more of them than us, hence the phrase “Silent Majority”.

The dead operate on both sides of the aisle, sometimes aiding Democrats, and sometimes aiding Republicans. Hof is a Republican, and Nevada law says that if a person joins the Silent Majoirty before taking office, a member of the same party must be appointed to take his or her place. It wasn’t too long ago that Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, back in 2000, won a Senate seat in Missouri, running against Republican John Ashcroft after joining the Silent Majority as the result of a plane crash.

Hof, among his many titles, owned several brothels where it was legal in Nevada to do so, and was the star of the reality HBO TV show Cathouse. He wrote an autobiography called The Art of the Pimp. All of this sounds vaguely familiar.

Before becoming Republican he was Libertarian and supported Ron Paul.

Hof was 72.

Visits: 69

In Memoriam: Gene Wilder, at 83

wilder_no_meme
The much-memed image of Gene Wilder in his role as Willy Wonka in the 1971 film.

Today, it was reported that actor and meme victim Gene Wilder died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at age 83.

I’ve looked up some things about the meme from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. Turns out that the image is from a scene where he reveals a little bit of his chocolate manufactouring process to some enthusiastic children. A few years ago, social media made a meme of this image, attaching condescending statements on all possible topics, in what became known as the “Creepy Wonka” or “Condescending Wonka” meme. A “Condescending Wonka” twitter account garnered half a million followers, even though the account had little else going for it but its name.

Don’t forget however, that Wilder had appeared in some of the biggest comedy movies in the 1970s, many produced by Mel Brooks, such as Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein; and he also appeared in the Woody Allen comedy Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but Were Afriad to Ask.

Mel Brooks, Jim Carrey, Ricky Gervais, and Russell Crowe, among others, each sent their regards within minutes of the sad news, via Twitter.

Visits: 106

The origin of the phrase "silent majority"

This phrase was made popular by Richard Nixon around 1968 when he attempted to discredit Vietnam war protestors as a group of vocal fringe elements, while he was secretly escalating the war into Cambodia. “The silent majority”, it was supposed by Nixon, still supported the US involvement in Vietnam.

It must be admitted, that 40 years later, the phrase still resonates with us. But as clever and smart as Nixon was, he did not come up with it himself; the phrase actually had its origins in classical literature. It was used to describe dead people. So, surely that must mean that in Nixon’s democracy, we should always respect the opionions of the dead, since there will always be more of them than of us. This need to respect their opinions is made more urgent by the fact that dead people cannot speak for themselves, and thus have no voice of their own in our political discourse. In addition, most of them are hard-working dead people who have never committed crimes.

In recent elections, however, dead people have in fact lent their weight to various political parties by voting in several recent elections in several states in the US. Dead people have also run for political office, and one of them won an election in a race against John Ashcroft. In America, dead people are full participants in the democratic process, benefitting both Democrats and Republicans.

Surely, Nixon’s phrase has resonance, not in the apologetic, hawkish, warmongering sense, but in the originally intended sense, backed by over 1000 years of classical European literature.  I think Nixon really was referring to dead people, and he may have even been invoking the spirit world.

What is the true origin of that phrase? I was itching to find out.

At first, I thought “silent majority” must have originated from Dante’s Inferno, where would likely have used it to describe the dead. It turned out to be too juicy a fact to be true. He doesn’t use the phrase.

Phrases close to this have been pointed out a few years ago by the late classical scholar James B. Butrica, who quoted several writers, including the ancient Roman writer Petronius (AD 27-66): “Abiit ad plures” or, “S/He’s gone to the majority”, a fancy way of saying “S/He’s dead”. Butrica says that the same phrase was also used some 200 years earlier by Roman writer Plautus (circa 254–184 BCE).

At any rate, all I have to say is: one man, one death. It wouldn’t be terribly democratic if one man had two deaths. And also, I believe quite strongly that if you vote when you are alive, then if you die right after you leave the polling station, then you shouldn’t be allowed to come back and vote again as a dead person before the polls close.

In closing, I must say that the constant invocation of “the silent majority” over the years whenever most discourse opposes what a politician does, is a fallacy. We only have one way to read “silent majority” (I’m talking about the living this time), which is to say that if you don’t speak up, it is because it (whatever “it” is) doesn’t arouse your passions, and thus you don’t care. If the majority of voters decide not to vote, for example (as is too sadly the case most of the time), then their silence is not seen as a vote for anyone, and their non-votes are never counted. A politician cannot “listen” to the silent majority, because there is nothing for them to hear.

Visits: 134