With COVID-19 vaccination programs underway in dozens of countries, 2021 is looking to be a much more positive year in terms of global health. Sadly, while the world is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the journey of some individuals ended before they could even make it onto the other side of the pandemic. Those people include a number of personalities from Hollywood, music, sports, and other industries. And if you’re wondering who they are, below is a list of celebs we lost in 2021 so far.
Nick Kamen (died May 4th, aged 59)
Model and singer-songwriter Nick Kamen died on May 4th after a long battle with bone marrow cancer. Bearing a resemblance to a young Elvis Presley, Kamen became a household name after starring in an advert for Levi’s 501 stonewashed denim back in the ‘80s.
The Levi’s ad led Kamen to the world of music. In 1986, the British celebrity released his first ever single titled Each Time You Break My Heart, which was written by Madonna herself and was originally intended as one of the tracks of her third album True Blue. Kamen also recorded the 1990 song I Promised Myself, which achieved success in Austria and Sweden where it topped the charts.
Anne Douglas (died April 29th, aged 102)
Anne Douglas, the widow of the late Oscar-nominated actor and Spartacus star Kirk Douglas, passed away in the afternoon of April 29th. The cause of her death was not disclosed, but family spokesperson Marcia Newberger said in a statement that she died “peacefully” at her home in Beverly Hills.
A philanthropist and publicist, Anne tied the knot with Kirk in 1954 and had two sons. Anne, who served as a co-executive producer in the 2009 documentary film Kirk Douglas: Before I Forget, is survived by her children Peter and Joel.
Michael Collins (died April 28th, aged 90)
NASA astronaut Michael Collins passed away after battling cancer. According to a statement posted on Collins’ Facebook page, Collins “spent his final days peacefully, with his family by his side.”
Collins flew the Apollo 11 command module Columbia around the Moon in 1969 while his crewmates, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, made the first crewed landing on the surface. He was also a test pilot and major general in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.
In a statement, NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk called Collins “a true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration.” Though some people called him “the loneliest man in history” while his colleagues walked on the moon for the first time, Jurczyk emphasized that Collins played a huge role in helping the U.S. achieve the historic milestone.
Prince Philip (died April 9th, aged 99)
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburg, passed away at Windsor Castle two months before his 100th birthday on June 10th. The cause of death was not disclosed, but the British royal family said he died peacefully.
A Greece-born royal, Philip married his third cousin Queen Elizabeth in 1947. He became British consort to the sovereign after King George VI died in 1952, making him the longest-serving consort to a British sovereign. Philip retired from his royal duties in August 2017, having completed 22,000 solo engagements, 637 overseas visits, delivered an estimated 5,493 speeches, and worked as a patron to almost 800 organizations.
DMX (died April 9th, aged 50)
Rapper DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, died at White Plains Hospital, a few days after he was placed on life support following a heart attack at his home possibly resulting from drug overdose.
DMX, aka Dark Man X, began rapping in the early 1990s and released his debut album It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot in 1998. He went on to release seven more studio albums, including 1999’s …And Then There Was X, which earned him three Grammy nods, including a nomination in the Best Rap Album category. He also parlayed his growing fame into an acting career, appearing in a number of movies including, 2000’s Romeo Must Die and 2003’s Cradle 2 The Grave.
Sadly, DMX’s achievements as a rapper and actor were often overshadowed by his issues with substance abuse and run-ins with the law.
Jessica Walter (died March 24th, aged 80)
Award-winning actress Jessica Walter died in her sleep at her home in Manhattan, New York. The cause of her death was not disclosed.
Walter started her six-decade-spanning acting career in New York City where she appeared in several Broadway productions including Advise and Consent, A Severed Head, Nightlife, and Photo Finish, for which she won the Clarence Derwent Award for Most Promising Newcomer. On the movie front, the Brooklyn native earned a Best Actress Golden Globe nomination for her role in the 1971 psychological thriller film Play Misty for Me.
A few years later, Walter won an Emmy for playing the titular role on the NBC limited series Amy Prentiss, which was a spinoff of the crime drama Ironside. While she took on several other TV roles over the years, Walter was best known for her hilarious turn as Lucille Bluth in the beloved sitcom Arrested Development. In 2005, Walter got an Emmy nomination for her performance as Lucille.
Richard Gilliland (died March 18th, aged 71)
Character actor Richard Gilliland passed away following a short illness in Los Angeles, California. Gilliland was the husband of actress Jean Smart, whom he met on the CBS sitcom Designing Women. Gilliland played the recurring role of J.D. Shackelford in the Golden Globe-nominated series, while Smart was part of the main cast, portraying Charlene Frazier-Stillfield.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Gilliland rose to prominence for his stint as Sgt. Steve DiMaggio on the NBC police procedural series McMillan & Wife from 1976 to 1977. He then went on to appear as Lt. Nick Holden on ABC’s adaptation of Operation Petticoat in 1977 to 1978, and became a series regular on ABC’s Just Our Luck in 1983 and CBC’s Heartland in 1989. His most recent TV credits were Bravo’s Imposters and CBS’ Criminal Minds.
Cliff Simon (died March 9th, aged 58)
South African athlete and actor Cliff Simon was killed in a kiteboarding accident on Topanga Beach in California. The news of his passing was confirmed by his wife Colette Simon in a Facebook post on the actor’s account. “He was known to most of you on this page as the villain you loved to hate, Ba’al, from Stargate SG-1. But as he said, ‘acting is what I do, it’s only a part of who I am.’ And he was SO much more — a true original, an adventurer, a sailor, swimmer, dancer, actor, author,” wrote Colette. “There is a gaping hole where he once stood on this earth. He was loved by too many to mention and had a great impact on so many lives.”
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Simon, who was a gymnast and swimmer, moved the U.K. in the ‘80s to pursue his dreams of being in the Olympics. He then relocated to the U.S. in 2000 to get more acting projects. Aside from Stargate SG-1, Simon also appeared on NBC’s Days of Our Lives, FX’s The Americans, and Amazon Prime Video’s Personal Space.
Floyd Little (died January 1st, aged 78)
Football player Floyd Little died at his home in Nevada after years of fighting neuroendocrine tumors, a rare cell cancer. Little was a halfback for the Denver Broncos during his entire National Football League (NFL) career, which spanned from 1967 to 1975.
Little’s best season was 1971 when he won the NFL rushing title with 1,133 yards while playing on a team that finished last in its division with a record of 4-9-1. Little, who made the Pro Bowl five times, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Gerry Marsden (January 3rd, aged 78)
Gerry Marsden, the leader of the Merseybeat band Gerry and the Pacemakers, died at Arrowe Park Hospital in Northwest England after being diagnosed with a blood infection in his heart.
Formed in 1599, Gerry and the Pacemakers were the second group signed by Brian Epstein, next to the Beatles. Gerry and the Pacemakers’ hits include How Do You Do It, I Like It, and You’ll Never Walk Alone from the musical Carousel, which became the anthem for his hometown football team, Liverpool FC.
After the Gerry and the Pacemakers disbanded in 1966, Marsden had a low-key career on TV, including a regular slot in the British children’s television The Sooty Show.
Marion Ramsey (January 7th, aged 73)
Marion Ramsey, best known for her portrayal of the soft-spoken Officer Laverne Hooks in the Police Academy films, passed away after a short illness.
Aside from starring in the six movies of Police Academy from 1984 to 1989, Ramsey was also a series regular on the ABC sketch comedy TV series Cos, in which she played various roles. She also provided the voice of D.I. Holler on ABC’s animated series The Addams Family.
John Reilly (died January 9th, aged 86)
John Reilly, popular for his role as Sean Donely in the daytime soap opera General Hospital, died of a heart attack. The Soap Opera Digest-nominated actor first appeared on the ABC series in 1984 and recurred through 2013.
In addition to General Hospital, Reilly also appeared on the NBC soap operas Sunset Beach and Passions. He also had a recurring role on Fox’s teen drama Beverly Hills, 90210 and provided the voice to various characters in Iron Man: The Animated Series from 1994 to 1996.
Sylvain Sylvain (died January 13th, aged 69)
Musician Sylvain Sylvain, real name Sylvain Mizrahi, passed away after fighting cancer for two and a half years. He was a founding member of the American rock band New York Dolls, which gained a cult following partly because of its members’ androgynous look complete with makeup and high heels.
The band, whose original members included vocalist David Johansen, drummer Billy Murcia, and guitarists Johnny Thunders, Rick Rivets, and Arthur “Killer” Kane, has been credited with heavily influencing rock and New Wave music. Formed in 1971, the band split in 1977, reformed in 2004, and broke up again in 2011.
Siegfried Fischbacher (died January 13th, aged 81)
One-half of the magician duo Siegfried & Roy, Siegfried Fischbacher passed away in Las Vegas just two days after he announced his pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Fischbacher’s death came eight months after his longtime professional partner and friend Roy Horn died in May from complications caused by COVID-19. Horn was 75.
Best known for their performances with white lions and white tigers, Fischbacher and Horn had a Las Vegas show called Siegfried & Roy at the Mirage Resort and Casino, which ran from February 1st, 1990 until Horn’s career-ending injury on his birthday on October 3rd, 2003. Months later, Fischbacher and Horn started serving as executive producers on the short-lived NBC animated series Father of the Pride, which was partly based on their Las Vegas show.
Joanne Rogers (died January 14th, aged 92)
The death of Joanne Rogers, the widow of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood star Fred Rogers, was announced by non-profit organization Fred Rogers Productions. Her cause of death was not disclosed in the statement.
“Fred Rogers Productions is deeply saddened by the passing of Joanne Rogers,” read the announcement. “The loving partner of Fred Rogers for more than 50 years, she continued their shared commitment to supporting children and families after his death as chair of the board of Fred Rogers Productions.”
The company also called Joanne “a brilliant and accomplished musician” and “a wonderful advocate for the arts.”
Don Sutton (died January 19th, aged 75)
Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton died in his sleep at his home in California. Sutton lost his left kidney after being diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2002 and part of his lungs was removed the following year. In 2019, he fractured his left femur.
Sutton spent most of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which retired his famed No. 20 jersey in 1998, the same year he was elected to the National Baseball (MLB) Hall of Fame. He also pitched for the Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, and the California Angels.
During his time in the MLB, he won 324 games, pitched 58 shutouts, and struck out 3,574 batters ― the seventh-most in MLB history. Following his playing career, Sutton worked as a broadcaster for several teams, notably for Atlanta Braves. He called Braves games on TV and radio for almost three decades.
Hank Aaron (died January 22nd, aged 86)
Baseball legend Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron died of natural causes in his sleep at his home in Atlanta. Nicknamed “Hammer” or “Hammerin’ Hank,” was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 following a distinguished MLB career highlighted by 755 home runs ― a career record that stood for more than 30 years.
Aaron famously broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record in the face of racism. As he was trying to surpass Ruth’s record, Aaron was taunted at ballparks, received death threats and racist hate mails.
“There were times during the chase when I was so angry and tired and sick of it all that I wished I could get on a plane and not get off until I was someplace where they never heard of Babe Ruth,” Aaron wrote in his I Had a Hammer autobiography. “But damn it all, I had to break that record. I had to do it for Jackie Robinson [first African American to play in MLB in the modern era] and my people and myself and for everybody who ever called me a (N-word).”
Song Yoo-jung (died January 23rd, aged 26)
Song Yoo-jung was found dead on January 23rd. Though her management agency, Sublime Artist Agency, didn’t announce the cause of her death, her passing comes in the wake of multiple suicides from young entertainers in South Korea.
Song made her acting debut on the MBC series Golden Rainbow in 2013 and became more popular for her role in the 2014 drama Make a Wish that aired on the same cable channel. She also appeared in the KBS2 series School 2017.
Hal Holbrook (died January 23rd, aged 95)
Veteran actor Hal Holbrook, best known for his portrayal of Mark Twain, died at his home in California. Holbrook won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play in 1966 for his portrayal of Twain in the one-man stage show Mark Twain Tonight!, which he developed himself. He performed the show for over 60 years, only retiring the show in 2017 due to his failing health.
Holbrook also appeared in several films and TV series during his career, which spanned for almost 70 years. He got an Oscar nomination for his performance as Ron Franz in the 2007 biographical drama film Into the Wild and won a total of five Emmys for his roles in The Bold Ones: The Senator, Pueblo, Lincoln, and Portrait of America. He also played the recurring role of Nate Madock on FX’s Sons of Anarchy.
Cloris Leachman (died January 27th, aged 94)
Film and TV icon Cloris Leachman died in her sleep from natural causes at her home in California. During her career of more than seven decades, Leachman won eight Emmys from 22 nominations making her the most nominated and, along with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, most awarded actress in Emmy history. She also won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role as the jaded wife of a closeted schoolteacher in the 1971 coming-of-age drama The Last Picture Show.
Leachman was also known for her performances in the sitcoms Raising Hope, Malcolm in the Middle, and Phyllis. Her most recent acting credits include Mad About You revival series, American Gods, and The Croods: A New Age.
Cicely Tyson (died January 28th, aged 96)
Award-winning actress Cicely Tyson, best known for her portrayal of strong African-American women, died just two days after her memoir, Just As I Am, was published. The cause of her death was not disclosed.
Tyson rose to prominence for her performance as Rebecca Morgan in the 1972 drama film Sounder, which earned her an Oscar nomination and an Emmy nod. Her portrayal of the title role in the 1974 TV movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman won her two Emmy Awards and a nomination for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Her most recent acting roles include Ophelia Harkness on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder and Miss Luma Lee Langston on OWN’s Cherish the Day.
Marc Wilmore (died January 30th, aged 57)
TV writer and producer Marc Wilmore died while battling COVID-19 and other health issues at a hospital in California. Wilmore was best known for his work on The Simpsons. He wrote 12 episodes of the Fox animated series and served as producer on over 300 episodes.
Wilmore received 10 Emmy nods, winning the prize for the outstanding animated program in 2008 for a Simpsons episode titled Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind. Aside from The Simpsons, his writing credits also include the Netflix animated series F Is for Family, the 1990s comedy show In Living Color, and the NBC late-night talk show The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno.
Dustin Diamond (died February 1st, aged 44)
Dustin Diamond, who rose to fame for his portrayal of Screech in the original Saved by the Bell series, died three weeks after he was diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma, also known as lung cancer. Diamond’s girlfriend, Tash Jules, was by the actor’s side when he died.
After starring in Saved by the Bell, Dustin also appeared in a number of reality shows, including Celebrity Big Brother, Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling, Celebrity Fit Club, Celebrity Boxing 2, and Celebrity Championship Wrestling.
Dianne Durham (died February 4th, aged 52)
Artistic gymnast Dianne Durham died after a short illness at a Chicago hospital. Durham rose to prominence after winning the all-around senior title at the women’s U.S National Championships in 1983. Her overall performance in the competition earned her four gold medals and the distinction of being the first African American gymnast to become the U.S. all-around champion.
After injuries and competition stipulations prevented her from competing in the 1984 Summer Olympics, Durham retired from the competition the following year. Durham became a coach at the University of Illinois in Chicago and later ran her own gymnastics school Skyline Gymnastics. Durham was inducted to the U.S. Gymnastics Regional Hall of Fame in 2017.
“Her personality was bubbly and she was a very charismatic individual who was respected and admired by a lot of people,” Durham’s husband Tom Drahozal said of the late athlete-turned-coach. “Whether highest level or recreation class, all the students admired her because she treated them all the same.”
Leon Spinks (February 5th, aged 67)
Former world heavyweight champion Leon Spinks passed away at a hospital in Nevada two years after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Spinks represented the U.S. during the 1976 Olympics in Canada as a light heavyweight and won a gold medal. He, however, was best known for defeating Muhammad Ali in a split decision in Las Vegas in 1978. Seven months later, Spinks and Ali met had a rematch in New Orleans, where Ali won and reclaimed the heavyweight title.
Outside of boxing, Spinks also had a brief career as a professional wrestler in the 1990s, working for Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW) and holding the FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Championship in 1992.
Christopher Plummer (died February 5th, aged 91)
Christopher Plummer, best known for his portrayal of Captain Von Trapp in the 1965 musical drama film The Sound of Music, passed away at his home in Connecticut. According to his wife Elaine Taylor, Plummer died from a blow to the head resulting from a fall.
A trained Shakespearean actor, Plummer started his over 70 years of career in theater, winning Tony Awards for his work in stage productions of Cyrano and Barrymore almost a quarter-century apart. On the movie front, Plummer won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role in the 2010 romantic dramedy Beginners, and got two other Oscar nominations for his performances in the 2009 biographical drama The Last Station and in the 2018 crime drama All the Money in the World.
His other notable roles include a Klingon general in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the voice of the villain in the Pixar animated movie Up, and his Emmy-winning role as Roscoe Heyward in the NBC miniseries The Moneychangers.
Pedro Gomez (died February 7th, aged 58)
Sports journalist Pedro Gomez died unexpectedly at home. No cause of death was given. Gomez joined ESPN in 2013 as a reporter, contributing to the network’s SportsCenter show until his death.
Prior to joining ESPN, Gomez was a sports columnist and national baseball writer for about six years at The Arizona Republic. He covered 25 World Series and 22 Major League Baseball All-Star Games throughout his entire career.
Mary Wilson (died February 8th, aged 76)
The Supremes founding member Mary Wilson died of high blood pressure as a result of artery blockages at her home in Nevada. Her death came just two days after she had announced on YouTube that she was planning to release new solo material with Universal Music Group, which she hoped would be released before her 77th birthday on March 6th.
Founded as The Primettes in Michigan in 1959, The Supremes are the most successful Motown act of the 1960s and are America’s most successful vocal group to date. Aside from Wilson, the two other original members of The Supremes are Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson. After the group disbanded in 1977, Wilson became a New York Times best-selling author with the 1986 release of her first autobiography, Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme.
Marty Schottenheimer (died February 8th, aged 77)
Former NFL linebacker and coach Marty Schottenheimer passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. Schottenheimer was the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs for 10 seasons and finished with a 101-58-1 regular-season record, the highest total during any 10-year span in the franchise’s history. He also coached three other teams: the Cleveland Browns and the San Diego Chargers for five seasons each and the Washington Redskins for a season.
Eighth in career wins at 205 and seventh in regular-season wins at 200, Schottenheimer has the most wins of an NFL head coach to not win a championship. He was inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2010.