Music-makers. The music world took such a huge hit this year that it is, unusually, our first category. David Bowie, 69, is now a star man. Prince, 57, dances the dance electric. Leonard Cohen, 82, now has nothing on his tongue but hallelujah. Sir George Martin, 90, the fifth Beatle, joins John Lennon and George Harrison. George Michael, 53, now has that something more he was waiting for. Leon Russell, 74, will rock the biggest house of all.
Great bands donated their best: Keith Emerson, 71, and Greg Lake, 69, left Carl Palmer to drum alone. Jefferson Airplane sent two, and on the same day: Signe Tole Anderson, 74, original singer pre-Grace Slick; and cofounder Paul Kantner, 74; the Eagles sent Glenn Frey, 67; Earth, Wind, and Fire sent Maurice White, 74; Parliament Funkadelic donated funk architect Bernie Worrell, 72; Heat Wave sent their genius keyboardist and composer Rod Temperton, 66; A Tribe Called Quest sent Malik "Phife Dawg" Taylor, 45. And the Hot Licks sent their namesake, Dan Hicks, 74, who now knows where the money is.
The worlds of blues and country sent up many lights this year, including greats such as Glenn Yarborough, 86; Merle Haggard, 79; Sonny James, 87; Buckwheat Zydeco (a.k.a. Stanley Dural Jr.), 68; Guy Clark, 74; Ralph Stanley, 89; and Elvis' guitarist Scotty Moore, 84.
Modernist champion and consummate 20th-century composer Pierre Boulez, 90, now has an orchestra that can play anything. The much-recorded Sir Neville Marriner was 92. Mexican superstar Juan Gabriel was 66, and Bobby Vee, 73, has made up his mind: He's an angel. Phil Chess, 95, helped found one of the most important music companies in U.S. pop history. Kay Starr, 1940s and '50s chanteuse, was 94; And Frank Sinatra Jr., 72, went to sing duets with his dad.
Like eighth notes rising up a stave, jazz artists took their place in the Best. Band. Ever. On clarinet, Pete Fountain, 86; on sax, Gato Barbieri, 83, tangoing in Paris; on sweet harmonica, Toots Thielemans, 94; on fabulous vibraphone, Bobby Hutcherson, 75; on piano, Mose Allison, 89 . . . and in the producer's booth, the great Rudy Van Gelder, 91.
Newsmakers. Only a year like this could push this category down to the second spot. Fidel Castro, 90, lived to see Cuba and the United States draw (maybe?) closer. Nancy Reagan, 94, stood by her man, and both Daniel Berrigan, 94, and Phyllis Schlafly, 92, stood by their ideals. Elie Wiesel, 87, and Shimon Peres, 93, stood for peace as they hoped for it. Surgeon Henry Heimlich, 96, championed the maneuver named after him, which has saved many lives.
John Glenn, 95, now will stay where he only visited before, as will fellow astronaut Edgar Mitchell, 85. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 79, changed the teaching and practice of law in the United States. Janet Reno, 78, was a dedicated public servant, and so, by his own lights, was Tom Hayden, 76.
Science/tech. Philadelphia-born Vera Rubin, 88, did historic research on the rotation curves of galaxies, and that led to the theory of dark matter.
Ray Tomlinson, who helped invent modern email, was 74. Roger Tsien, a Nobel laureate for his work on Alzheimer's, was 64. Simon Ramo, "father of the ICBM," was 103. Artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky, 88, and computer genius Wesley A. Clark, 88, will get the empyrean mainframe purring. Nobel-winning game theorist Thomas Schelling was 95.
Business. Peter Mondavi Jr., 101, is now where the wine flows like water. Michael "Jim" Delligatti, McDonald's franchise owner who created the Big Mac, was 98. Andrew Grove of Intel was 79, Robert H.B. Baldwin of Morgan Stanley was 95, and Ralph Baruch of Viacom was 92.
Sports. Latrobe, Pa.'s own Arnold Palmer, 87, hit one a light-year down the fairway. But the greatest voice stilled was that of Muhammad Ali, 74. Rumble, young man, rumble. (Howard Bingham, 77, who took great photos of Ali, joins him.) Gordie Howe, 88, was silk on ice; Sammy Lee, 93, was poetry in diving. Ralph Branca, 90, threw the Shot Heard Round the World. José Fernández, 24, was not yet at his peak. Pat Summit, 64, inspired generations of basketballers. Monte Irvin, 96, was one of Major League Baseball's pioneer black players. Joe Garagiola, 90, was an even better announcer than a catcher.
Chyna (a.k.a. Joan Laurer) of World Wrestling Federation fame, was 45, and mixed martial artist Kimbo Slice (a.k.a. Kevin Ferguson) was 42. BMX specialist Dave Mirra was 41, and skateboarder Dylan Rieder was 28.
Movies/TV. Zsa Zsa Gabor, believed to be 99, will now make 'em laugh in paradise - along with beloved Gene Wilder, 83, who'll be puttin' on the ritz. Carrie Fisher, 60, now is with the Force - as is her mother, Debbie Reynolds, 84. Bob Elliott (of Bob and Ray), 92, and Gary Shandling, 66, will help sustain the merriment. Alan Young, 96, talked to Mr. Ed for a living. Grant Tinker, 90, was a true TV pioneer. Marni Nixon, the "Voice of the Stars," 86, now sings for all time. Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s Robert Vaughn was 83, and pert Florence Henderson was 82. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond was 85. Directors Andrzej Wajda, 90 (The Promised Land, The Maids of Wilko, Man of Iron, Katyn), and Michael Cimino, 77 (The Deer Hunter), have set down their scripts.
Both George Kennedy and Hugh O'Brien were 91, and Alan Thicke and Alan Rickman were 69. So was Patty Duke; William Schallert, who played her dad on The Patty Duke Show, was 93. Mother Mary Angelica, 92, founder of the Eternal World Television Network, now has her ideal studio. Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond), was 90, and Madeleine Lebeau, believed to be the last living cast member of Casablanca, was 92.
Now, Craig Sager, 65, can wear whatever suits he wants. Abe Vigoda (The Godfather; Barney Miller) was 94, and John McLaughlin of The McLaughlin Group was 89.
Kenny Baker, 81, played R2-D2, and Michu Meszaros, 77, played ALF. David Huddleston, 85, was the Big Lebowski. Bill Nunn, 63, was Radio Raheem in Do the Right Thing. Noel Neill, 95, was Lois Lane on Adventures of Superman, and Anton Yelchin, 27, was Chekov in Star Trek movies. Transgender actress Alexis Arquette was 47.
Literary arts. Multi-Pulitzer-winning playwright Edward Albee, 88, had ties to the Valley Forge Military Academy, Lawrenceville School, and McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Harper Lee, 89, wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most famous U.S. novels ever, and Go Set a Watchman, one of the most controversial.
This year, we bid adieu to many accomplished storytellers and novelists. They included Richard Adams, 96, who turned a story about rabbits told to his kids on car drives into a profound philosophical tale in Watership Down. They also included Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose), 84; E.R. Braithwaite (To Sir, with Love), 104; Margaret Forster (Georgy Girl), 77; Gloria Naylor (The Women of Brewster Place), 66; Anita Brookner (Hotel du Lac), 87; Tim LaHaye, 90, of the Left Behind series; Pat Conroy (Prince of Tides), 70; William Trevor (The Story of Lucy Gault), 88; Shirley Hazzard (The Great Fire), 85; W.P. Kinsella (Shoeless Joe), 81; and James Alan McPherson, 72, a Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow and the first black writer to win the Pulitzer for fiction (Elbow Room, in 1978).
Playwright Peter Shaffer, 90, wrote Equus, Amadeus, and much else. Michael Herr, whose Dispatches is still the standard for Vietnam-era writing, was 76. Alvin Toffler, 87, coined the term future shock. Shakespeare scholar Sylvan Barnet was 89, and talented translator Gregory Rabassa was 94. Among poets, C.D. Wright was 67, and Geoffrey Hill, possibly the greatest poet never to win the Nobel, was 84.