The world of popular culture is a vast and diverse place, and an occupational hazard of this is that every year we must endure the losses of many beloved figures the world over. Many of these people feel like part of the family, even though you are likely never to have met them, and their departure can leave a void. Here are just some of the figures we lost in 2015 – spare a thought for them, along with all the others involved in making the entertainment industry so great, as we enter into this new year…
Anne Kirkbride, 60
Hearts broke across the UK last January when Coronation Street legend Anne Kirkbride passed away from breast cancer at the age of 60. Kirkbride has played Deirdre Barlow for 42 years, appearing on the soap from 1972 to 2014. She was married to former actor David Beckett, and had been taking a break from the Street due to her illness, with writers being forced to write the character out as having died suddenly – leading to some painfully realistic scenes involving her castmates which involved very little acting. The 20th National Television Awards were held just a few days after Kirkbride’s death and her on-screen husband and dear friend William Roache delivered a touching tribute to her, whilst she was also posthumously awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Soap Awards. Her presence is missed on screen every day, but Deirdre will remain one of Coronation Streets most beloved characters.
Leonard Nimoy, 83
Best known for playing Spock in the original Star Trek series, Leonard Nemoy passed away in February at the age of 83. Spock was a constant in his life and he played the character numerous times over his career – including the original series run from 1964 to 1969, as well as in eight films and in guest spots on various spin off shows. He last portrayed Spock in 2013, and his two autobiographies were even named I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995). Following his death, an asteroid was named in his honour, 4684 Nimoy. He was survived by his wife, two children, six grandchildren, a great-grandchild and a legion of fans spanning generations.
Sir Terry Pratchett, 66
Fantasy novelist Sir Terry Pratchett died in 2015 after announcing in 2007 that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease. Over a career spanning 44 years Pratchett penned over 70 novels and is one of the most succesful authors to come out of the UK. Following his diagnosis he became a strong advocate for Alzheimers research and assisted suicide, and he made a TV programme for the BBC depicting his life with the disease. He was knighted in 2009 and also has an asteroid named after him – 127005 Pratchett – due to a lifelong affinity with astrology. Following his passing, his assistant Rob Wilkins Tweeted from Pratchett’s account:
“At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together.
Terry took death’s arm and followed him through the doors and onto the black desert under the endless night.
The first part of the tweet utilised the small capitals format that was customary to Death’s dialogue in Pratchett’s books – the perfect tribute to the man who inspired so many.
Ben E King, 76
Soul/R&B singer and composer Ben E King passed away last year at the ahe of 76. Perhaps best known for co-writing and singing the much-covered hit Stand By Me (1961), King had a long career as part of The Drifters and then as a solo artist. King was active in music for his entire life, touring the UK in 2013 and performing in the US various times over the course of 2014. He is survived by his wife of 51 years Betty, as well as their three children and six grandchildren. Imagine Dragons played Stand By Me at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards as tribute to the great man.
BB King, 89
The King of the Blues BB King passed away at the age of 89 last year. Born Riley B King on a cotton plantation in Mississippi in 1925, King went on to have a long and varied career in the music industry. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and in 2011 Rolling Stone ranked him sixth on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Known for his constant performing, King averaged over 200 shows a year right up to 2014. Married twice, he attributed the failure of both marriages to his commitment to music, and upon his death his body was flown to Memphis where a procession was held along Beale Street before it was driven down Route 61 to his hometown.
Sir Christopher Lee, 93
There aren’t many people who can claim to have had as varied a life as Sir Christopher Lee, who passed away at the age of 93 last year. A World War II veteran, Lee went on to become a hugely successful actor in countless films including playing Dracula in Hammer Horror and Saruman in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Other notable work include playing a Bond villain in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) and six Tim Burton movies. Lee, who could speak eight languages, was also known as a musician and became the oldest heavy metal artist in recent years after releasing a symphonic metal album in 2010. Few people can claim to have had such a long or as varied of a career as Sir Christopher, who will be fondly remembered by many for different things.
James Horner, 61
Hollywood composer James Horner tragically died when he crashed his personal plane last year in an accident at the age of 61. Horner was well known in Hollywood since the 1980s and has composed soundtracks for countless films, including Titanic (1994), the best selling orchestral soundtrack of all time. He had composed two soundtracks in 2015 for Southpaw and The 33. His absence is sure to be felt across the industry, and he is surivived by his wife and two children.
Cilla Black, 72
The UK was again left stunned as it lost another national treasure when Cilla Black died suddenly at her Spanish Villa, aged 72. With a career spanning 52 years in music and television, Cilla was a household name and the nation was devestated by the loss. She left behind three sons, her husband of 30 years Bobby Wills died in 1999. Friends with The Beatles, Liverpool lass Cilla was the best selling female artist in the UK during the 1960s with 15 albums and 37 singles. She then became well known as a television host with shows such as Blind Date from 1985 to 2003.
Wes Craven, 76
One of the kings of the horror industry was lost last year at the age of 76. Best known for horror and slasher films, Craven was the man behind A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), as well as the Scream franchise (1994-2011) and other films such as The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and The Last House on the Left (1972). Craven worked in the porn industry before getting into directing horror. The genre has lost one of the true greats – but Freddy Kreuger will live on to remind us of his genius.
2015 also saw the loss of Still Alice (2014) director Richard Glatzer, 63, who suffered ALS; Everybody Loves Raymond child star Sawyer Sweeten, 19; Bestselling novelist Jackie Collins, 77; Original Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Gunnar Hanses, 68; Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland, 48 and Motorhead frontman Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilminster, 70, among countless others – RIP.