This year many influential people left this world. As 2006 comes to an end, we celebrate their lives and give thanks for what they left us.
James Brown left us just this week. The Godfather of Soul and funk and disco and rock — James Brown was one of the most influential musicians of our time. Mostly, he just made us feel good.
Filmmaker Robert Altman made audiences think. He was an adventurous director of films like "The Player," "M*A*S*H." and "Nashville." Thank you, Robert Altman, you made it look so easy.
Golfer Byron Nelson also made it look so easy. Before Tiger or Jack or Arnie, there was Lord Byron. In just one year he won an astounding 18 tournaments, 11 of them in a row. Imagine that.
Betty Friedan imagined a society of equal rights for women and men and fought to make it so. Her book, "the Feminine Mystique," became the manifesto of the women's movement.
Shelley Winters, your star shone brightly for more than 50 years. You could be sexy or shrill, violent or vulnerable, but always memorable.
We'll never find another singer like Lou Rawls. Classy. Smooth. "The silkiest chops in the singing game," said Frank Sinatra. And he was right.
Nothing smooth about Wilson Pickett. "Wicked Pickett," they called him, all the way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Buck O'Neil never made it into baseball's Hall of Fame. He missed it by one vote just this year. A star of the Negro leagues, first as a player and then a manager, he became the first black coach in the major leagues. Buck O'Neil was a trailblazer.
Susan Butcher's trail went through the Alaska wilderness. Four times in five years, she and her team won the grueling Iditarod sled-dog race. She was a champion musher.
Red Auerbach was a dogged competitor. He turned his Boston Celtics into one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports. "You'll never be a legend unless you win," he once said. Red Auerbach was a legend.
So was Bob Mathias. He won the Olympic decathlon in 1948 when he was just 17. Four years later, he won the gold again.
Boxer Floyd Patterson won Olympic gold, then was the first ever to become heavyweight champion twice.
Trumpet player Maynard Ferguson could really hit those high notes.
Johnny Apple gave us the lowdown on wars, politics and living well for 40 years in The New York Times.
The wonderful words of Comden and Green. Adolph Green died four years ago and now Betty Comden is gone too. They wrote the lyrics to scores of songs for Broadway and Hollywood. What a team were Comden and Green.
And what a team were the Nicholas Brothers. Fayard taught himself to dance, then he taught his baby brother Harold. Fayard left us this year, six years after his brother. No one could do what the Nicholas Brothers did. Not then. Not now. They were two of a kind.