A look back at the esteemed personalities who left us this year, who'd touched us with their innovation, creativity and humanity.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan. The Associated Press contributed to this gallery.
For generations, the actress, comedian and television presenter Betty White (January 17, 1922-December 31, 2021) was one of TV's most familiar and beloved faces, often hilariously playing against the sweet image of her smiling eyes and dimpled cheeks on the series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Golden Girls."
Born in Oak Park, Illinois, and raised in California during the Great Depression, White performed on radio and for an experimental TV station in Los Angeles in the 1930s. After the war, when she served as a member of the American Women's Voluntary Services, she began hosting a live variety show, "Hollywood on Television," in 1949. In the '50s she starred in the sitcom "Life With Elizabeth," and her own talk program, "The Betty White Show."
She was a welcome presence throughout the '60s on such game shows as "To Tell the Truth," "What's My Line?," "Liar's Club," "It Takes Two," and "Password," where she met her husband, host Allen Ludden.
During the fourth season of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," one script described a character, Sue Ann Nivens, as "a sickeningly sweet Betty White type." Sweet – as well as scheming, conniving, and laughably lustful. White played the part hilariously, and became a fixture of the series, winning two of her five Emmy Awards for the role.
"She was the neighborhood nymphomaniac," White told "Sunday Morning" in 2011. "And they'd ask my husband, Allen Ludden, they'd ask, 'How close to Betty is Sue Ann?' He said, 'Well, they're the same, except Betty can't cook, of course.'"
She followed that series with "The Golden Girls," playing the sweet, naïve Rose Nylund, and winning a third Emmy.
A self-proclaimed workaholic, White continued making numerous guest appearances on shows, in addition to authoring more than a half-dozen books, and raising money for animal causes. She wrote, produced and hosted a syndicated TV show, "The Pet Set."
But by 2010, when she appeared in a Snickers candy bar commercial, White became America's senior citizen sweetheart – a sweet old lady with a hip, naughty side, and a penchant for bawdy humor. At age 88 she became the oldest guest host of "Saturday Night Live" following a social media campaign targeting the show's producers; and she was invited onto the pilot of the sitcom "Hot in Cleveland" – and ended up staying through 124 episodes. She was voted Entertainer of the Year by The Associated Press.
She was also a role model for how to grow old joyously. "Don't try to be young," she told The AP. "Just open your mind. Stay interested in stuff. There are so many things I won't live long enough to find out about, but I'm still curious about them."
Despite the loss of many people close to her, White told "Sunday Morning" she wasn't afraid of death herself. "Not at all. My mother had the most wonderful outlook on death. She would always say, 'Nobody knows. People think they do, you can believe whatever you want to believe what happens at that last moment, but nobody ever knows until it happens.' But, she said, it's a secret. So, all growing up, whenever we'd lose somebody, she'd always say, 'Now, they know the secret.'"
Nevada Democrat Harry Reid (December 2, 1939-December 28, 2021), a lion of the Senate, was known as one of the toughest dealmakers in Congress for more than three decades. A former amateur boxer, he brought a willingness to draw partisan blood, and famously espoused: "I would rather dance than fight, but I know how to fight."
Born in meager circumstances in Searchlight, Nevada – a town he once said had 13 brothels and not much else – Reid lost his alcoholic father to suicide. His mother was a laundress at a bordello. He would put himself through law school at George Washington University in D.C., working nights as a Capitol Police officer.
By 28 Reid was elected to the Nevada Assembly, and at 30 became the youngest lieutenant governor in the state's history. As the former head of the Nevada Gaming Commission, and a participant in sting operations against organized crime, Reid was once targeted with a crude bomb planted in his car.
First elected to the House in 1982, Reid won his first Senate race in 1986, and four more after that, becoming Senate Majority Leader in 2007. During his career, he played a key role in landmark Democratic legislation, from the economic stimulus package after the Great Recession, to President Barack Obama's signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act, in 2010.
He pushed to move Nevada's presidential caucuses to February, at the start of the nominating season, boosting the state's importance. He steered hundreds of millions of dollars to the state, but was also instrumental in blocking construction of a controversial nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain outside Las Vegas. A champion of suicide prevention, he defended social programs, but also voted against most gun control bills, and proposed ending legal prostitution in his home state.
Reid was also known for his abrupt style, typified by his habit of unceremoniously hanging up the phone without saying goodbye. "Even when I was president, he would hang up on me," Mr. Obama said in 2019.
A knee injury ended this Philadelphia Eagles draft pick's playing career. But as a Hall of Fame NFL coach, John Madden (April 10, 1936-December 28, 2021) led the Oakland Raiders to seven AFC titles and a Super Bowl championship in 1977. With an overall 103-32-7 regular-season record, his .759 winning percentage is the best among all NFL coaches with more than 100 games under their belt.
And he never stopped coaching, making a complicated game fun and easier to understand for millions of viewers by bringing his boisterous, unpretentious love of the sport to the broadcast booth, on CBS, Fox, ABC and NBC. Over 30 years on air he earned 16 Emmys, illustrating and analyzing plays with both visual aids (such as a video marker tracking player movements) and comic sound effects (dropping a "Boom!" or a "Doink!" at appropriate moments). He was in the booth for 11 Super Bowls between 1979-2009, retiring after Super Bowl XLIII.
He also shared his football love with video game enthusiasts, creating a groundbreaking franchise, "John Madden Football" (later "Madden NFL"), an EA Sports game that launched in 1988; it has since sold more than 130 million units.
"People always ask, are you a coach or a broadcaster or a video game guy?" Madden said when was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "I'm a coach, always been a coach."
In 1961 Sandra Jaffe (March 10, 1938- December 27, 2021) and her husband, Allan, were returning to Philadelphia from a Jack Kerouac-style adventure of a honeymoon in Mexico City, when they stopped in New Orleans to look for jazz records. There they discovered a French Quarter art gallery offering informal jazz concerts. They ended up staying in the Big Easy, helped form the New Orleans Society for the Preservation of Traditional Jazz, and turned the gallery into an American institution known as the Preservation Hall – home of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
The band members – many of whom come from generations of New Orleans musicians – have been improvising brass band jazz for six decades. They've also toured, spreading the gospel of New Orleans jazz to the world.
The Hall became the South's first fully-integrated music venue, despite Louisiana's segregation law making integrated entertainment illegal. In 2014 Sandra Jaffe told "Sunday Morning" that when her husband (who played the tuba) joined the band on stage, they both had to face the music. "Allan and I would be at night court many times because of it," she laughed. "With Judge Babylon banging on his gavel, saying, 'If you think we're gonna let you carpetbaggers, you know, we don't mix cream with our coffee in this here town!'"
Even after the federal Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, ending legal discrimination, the Preservation Hall became a rare place for mixed bands to play, and for Blacks and White to congregate together.
In 2006 Sandra and her son, Ben Jaffe, the Preservation Hall's creative director (who also plays sousaphone and string bass), were awarded the National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
As South Africa's first Black Archbishop, Anglican theologian Desmond Tutu (October 7, 1931-December 26, 2021) bravely challenged the brutal racism of the country's apartheid rulers.
Born in the township of Klerksdorp, Tutu was a diminutive clergyman with a twinkle in his eye and a massive laugh who would earn a Nobel Peace Prize as a global campaigner for racial equality and human rights. His resolve to bring down the apartheid system through non-violent means (including calling for sanctions against South Africa in retaliation for its apartheid restrictions) only hardened when a state of emergency brought sweeping powers to police and the military in the 1980s.
He once stated, "The primary violence – and White people don't want to hear this – the primary terrorism in this country comes from the government. And until that system goes, there is no hope at all of any stability in this land."
When the anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years, eventually becoming his nation's first Black president, in 1994, Tutu was appointed to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, tasked with investigating the apartheid government's brutal history. At hearings in which torture and other atrocities were recounted, Tutu would openly weep.
"Without forgiveness, there is no future," he said then. And while his commission's report in 1998 put most of the blame on the apartheid system, it also found the African National Congress guilty of human rights violations.
When the ANC sued to prevent the report's release, Tutu lashed back: "I didn't struggle in order to remove one set of those who thought they were tin gods, to replace them with others who are tempted to think they are."
Tutu was a member of The Elders, an international organization of human rights advocates founded by Mandela. As archbishop he continued to pursue LGBT rights; ordained women priests and promoted gay clerics; and supported same-sex marriage. "I would not worship a God who is homophobic, and that is how deeply I feel about this," he said in 2013. "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say, 'Sorry, I would much rather go to the other place.'"
At age 26, Sarah Weddington (February 5, 1945-December 26, 2021) was the youngest lawyer ever to successfully argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, when she brought the case of Roe v. Wade, which resulted in a 7-2 decision in 1973 that legalized abortion.
A minister's daughter from Abilene, Texas, Weddington was a recent graduate of the University of Texas law school when she and a former classmate, Linda Coffee, brought a class-action lawsuit challenging a state law that largely banned abortions. Their case was brought on behalf of "Jane Roe" (a pregnant woman whose real name was Norma McCorvey) against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade.
In 2003 Weddington talked with Texas Monthly magazine regarding her concern about preserving a woman's reproductive rights, which was inspired by her own experience of crossing the border in order to obtain an abortion, accompanied by her future husband: "We made an appointment and drove to Mexico. I will never forget following a man in a white guayabera shirt down an alley, and Ron and I having no idea where we were headed. I can still remember going under the anesthetic and then waking up later in a hotel room with Ron. Driving back I felt fine; I didn't have any complications. But it made me appreciate what other women went through, who did not have someone to go with them or did not have the money to pay for a medically safe abortion, as I did. Later, I heard stories of women who had not been so lucky."
While the case was being tried, Weddington was elected to represent Austin in the Texas House of Representatives. She served three terms as a state lawmaker, before becoming general counsel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She later worked as an advisor on women's issues to President Jimmy Carter, and taught at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Women's University. She also wrote "A Question of Choice," a book about Roe v. Wade.
As Waddington noted to Texas Monthly nearly two decades ago, then (as now) reproductive rights were under threat by anti-abortion advocates and conservative courts. "So, here we are talking about something I did thirty years ago. I am sure when my obituary is written, the lead paragraph will be about Roe v. Wade. I thought, over a period of time, that the right of a woman to make a decision about what she would do in a particular pregnancy would be accepted – that by this time, the thirtieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the controversy over abortion would have gradually faded away like the closing scenes of a movie and we could go on to other issues. I was wrong."
He's been heralded as "the father of sociobiology" and "the new Darwin," and most of it comes down to ants. Biologist and naturalist Edward Osborne Wilson (June 10, 1929-December 26, 2021) used myrmecology (the study of ants) to test and rewrite theories about evolution, ecology, social orders, and human nature, and postulated that humanity's development has been more directed by genetics than by culture or religion.
His interest in ants came about from an eye accident in his youth, after which he was better at focusing on tiny insects rather than more massive birds and mammals. One of his earliest discoveries was how ants communicate with one another through chemical substances known as pheromones.
His early books – "The Insect Societies," "Sociobiology: The New Synthesis," and "On Human Nature" (which won the first of his two Pulitzer Prizes) – explored the evolution of insect communities and behaviors, and compared insects to vertebrates and humans in developing social structures and traits characteristic of humans, such as altruism.
Controversy followed Wilson and his work. Though he studied the evolution of behavior and its effect on biology, he was accused of promoting eugenics; evangelical Christians attacked him for "scientism" by ignoring God, while Marxists lambasted him for ignoring a human's experience with shaping the mind.
Wilson ascribed his ideas to "scientific humanism," preferring to study human nature through an evolutionary biologist's lens rather than that of a cleric or philosopher. Yet he sought an alliance with the religious world, writing in 1991, "Human nature is, at the very least, far more a product of self-contained evolution than ordinarily conceded by philosophers and theologians. On the other hand, religious thought is far richer and more subtle than present-day science can explain – and too important to abandon."
Other works included "The Ants" (also a Pulitzer Prize-winner, co-written with Bert Hölldobler), "The Diversity of Life," "The Future of Life," "The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies," "A Window on Eternity: A Biologist's Walk Through Gorongosa National Park," "The Meaning of Human Existence," and "Tales From the Ant World."
Born in Sacramento, Calif., Joan Didion (December 5, 1934-December 23, 2021) moved constantly as a child, which may explain why books were constant companions for her. A voracious reader and writer, she won an essay contest while a student at UC Berkeley. The prize: A job at Vogue in New York City. She would spend several years at the magazine, while also stretching her wings with her first novel, "Run, River."
Over the course of her career she would write a handful of novels (such as "Play It As It Lays") as well as several screenplays (including "The Panic in Needle Park," the 1976 version of "A Star Is Born" and "True Confessions"). But Didion is best known for her non-fiction, as a leading proponent of the "New Journalism," conveying true life with the colorful literary panache of a novelist.
For decades, she dissected politics, culture, feminism, journalism, and the act of writing itself. Her 1968 book, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," a collection of pieces published by The New York Times Magazine, Saturday Evening Post and others, captured the incongruities of life in counter-culture California. Other books included "The White Album," "Salvador," "Miami," "After Henry," "Where I Was From," "South and West," "We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live," and "Let Me Tell You What I Mean."
Her powers of observation were not diminished by her tiny, elfin frame. She once said of herself, "I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests."
The death, in 2003, of her husband of nearly 40 years, writer John Gregory Dunne, and the long hospitalization of their daughter, Quintana (who died in 2005), led to Didion's fiercely revelatory tome about grief and mourning, "The Year of Magical Thinking" (which received the National Book Award for Nonfiction). She later adapted the book into a one-woman play, which featured Vanessa Redgrave on Broadway.
Didion wrote of her daughter's death in the 2011 follow-up, "Blue Nights."
She received a National Humanities Medal in 2012, when she was praised for devoting "her life to noticing things other people strive not to see."
In a 1979 interview with British Vogue, Didion described her writing life: "I work in an empty room, just a table and chair, and a couple of checked sheets threaded on a pole over the window to stop me looking out. I can't have a book in the room. Obviously anything I do has been done better before, so they discourage me. I find a place where I want to spend imaginary time … then it presents itself to me as a technical problem, making what's in my mind into an object.
"The hardest thing is finding the tone of voice. Finally you hit on something and go with it. … Two pages roughed out would be a big day for me."
Writer and artist Eve Babitz (May 13, 1943-December 17, 2021) earned fame as a chronicler of Los Angeles in the 1960s and '70s, while becoming the "It Girl" of the West Coast art scene. Her fascination with Hollywood and her witty self-examination as a name-dropping muse, lover and ogler of celebrities, brought comparisons to such writers as Joan Didion and Collette, and to Andy Warhol ingenue Edie Sedgwick.
A child of Hollywood and its strangely intersectional cultural landscape (her godfather was Igor Stravinsky), Babitz was first noticed in 1963, while in her early 20s, as the subject of a famous photograph, appearing nude while playing chess with the fully-clothed French artist Marcel Duchamp. (Her face was not visible, but her breasts certainly were.) She designed album covers for Atlantic Records, for Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds and Linda Ronstadt; hobnobbed with the rich and famous (introducing Salvador Dali to Frank Zappa); and dated a stream of celebrities (she convinced boyfriend Steve Martin to wear a white suit for his comedy act). And she wrote navel-gazing tell-alls with a disarming lack of pretension or self-censorship, contributing to such publications as Rolling Stone and Vogue.
In her 1991 Esquire essay "Roll Over Elvis: The Second Coming of Jim Morrison," she wrote about her seduction of The Doors' lead singer: "Being in bed with Jim was like being in bed with Michelangelo's David, only with blue eyes. His skin was so white, his muscles were so pure, he was so innocent. … Jim as a sex object lasted for about two years. In fact, once he and Pamela [Courson] became entangled in their fantastic killing struggle – once he finally found someone who, when he said, 'Let's drive over this cliff,' actually would – he became more of a death object than a sex symbol. Which was even sexier."
Her books included "Eve's Hollywood," "Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A.: Tales," "Sex and Rage: Advice to Young Ladies Eager for a Good Time," "L.A. Woman," "Black Swans: Stories," "Fiorucci, The Book," and "Two by Two: Tango, Two-step, and the L.A. Night" – with the distinctions of being fiction or non-fiction extremely blurred.
And her life was as romantic, melodramatic and tragic as the image she concocted in print. Addicted to cocaine in the early '80s, she suffered life-threatening third-degree burns in 1997 when her clothing caught fire while driving. "To a lot of people, the idea of an extended bed rest sounds like heaven," she wrote. "But the truth is, lying in bed you get no respect and being a burn patient is a visit to torture land. Everyone keeps telling you to relax, which you have absolutely no way of doing anyway."
Her writing sold modestly, and Babitz claimed that she was never successful, but was close enough to success to "smell the stench." But her reputation was burnished after a 2014 Vanity Fair article praising her work. Her books were reissued, and in 2019 a collection was published, "I Used to Be Charming: The Rest of Eve Babitz." A biography by Lili Anolik, who called her subject "the louche, wayward, headlong, hidden genius of Los Angeles," further led to a discovery of Babitz by a new generation of women.
"It used to be only men who liked me, now it's only girls," Babitz joked.
Born Gloria Jean Watkins, feminist author, professor and activist bell hooks (September 25, 1952-December 15, 2021) used a lower-case pen name in her influential writings about race, economics, gender and politics.
During the 1970s, hooks fell out with "White comrades" in the feminist movement, and wrote "Ain't I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism," an examination of the "devaluation of Black womanhood." She opposed separating the fields of feminism, civil rights, and economic justice, and believed racism, sexism and economic disparity reinforced each other.
Other notable works among her 40 books included "Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center"; "Where We Stand: Class Matters"; "Feminism Is For Everybody"; "Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood"; and "All About Love: New Visions."
Hooks taught at Yale and Stanford Universities, Oberlin College, and City College of New York. In 2014 she founded the bell hooks center at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky (where she was on faculty), as a place where "many and varied expressions of difference can thrive."
Last year Time magazine named hooks one of its 100 Women of the Year.
In a 2011 interview with Ms. Magazine, hooks said, "I really believe that love as a political transformative force in our society can change the world. It's been love that motivates people to the most deep and profound change.
"In fact, I was thinking about doing a short book about this whole journey, going around the country and talking to people about love. So many bell hooks' readers [were] upset that I was writing about love – it was like 'bell's gone soft,' and I kept thinking, 'They don't get it.' It's not about going soft at all; it's about knowing what can save our planet. Which is people connecting, communicating, showing loving-kindness."
Vicente Fernández (February 17, 1940-December 12, 2021) was a beloved singer of ranchera and other classics of Mexican music. Releasing more than 70 albums since the late 1960s, Fernández (nicknamed "Chente") sold more than 50 million records and appeared in more than 30 films.
Known for hits such as "El Rey" and "Lástima que seas ajena," Fernández attracted fans beyond Mexico's borders. His songs "Volver, Volver" and "Como Mexico no hay dos" were popular among Mexican emigres in the United States, for their expression of a longing for the homeland.
Fernández won three Grammys and nine Latin Grammys.
In 2012 he told Billboard magazine the secret to maintaining his status for the duration of his decades-long career: "Respecting your lifestyle. Respecting your career, and living to sing. Not singing to live."
And, always wearing his charro outfit: "For me, the charro outfit goes hand-in-hand with the personality Vicente Fernández has given it. Without the charro outfit, I don't feel I'm me."
Author Anne Rice (October 4, 1941-December 11, 2021) was born into a strict Catholic family, and was given her father's name: Howard Allen O'Brien. (She would choose the name Anne for herself as a child.) Her mother died from complications of alcoholism when Anne was a teenager. In 2006 Rice told "Sunday Morning" that, back in the 1950s, alcoholism was considered a disease: "The one time she talked to me about it, she described it that way, as a craving in the blood. That's what she said it was. She asked me to say the Rosary with her."
She left Catholicism as a youngster when she could not reconcile the forbidding of books: "I stopped believing in my church, and then I stopped believing in God. I think the two were very intimately connected for me."
The subject matter of her debut novel, "Interview With the Vampire," from 1973, came while mourning the death of her six-year-old daughter, Michelle, from leukemia. "The vampire was the perfect metaphor for the way I felt. I felt like a lost person, a person in the dark, a person who was trying to find meaning in life, trying to find context.
"It was just something I tried one night. I was just sitting at the typewriter, and I thought, 'Well, let me give this a try. What would it be like if you could get a vampire to tell you what his experiences were, like an interview with the vampire?'"
The book spurred a long list of novels in what came to be known as "The Vampire Chronicles." There were also books on witches, werewolves and seraphims, as well as erotic novels published under pseudonyms, and they were translated to movies and the stage. To date, her books have sold more than 150 million copies worldwide. ["Ramses the Damned: The Reign of Osiris" will be published posthumously in February 2022.]
After nearly four decades as an avowed atheist writing about vampires, Rice returned to the Catholic Church, and began writing about Jesus. Her 2005 novel, "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt," told the story of Jesus as a child. She explained to "Sunday Morning" that her goal with the book was "to make you believe. I'm going to use every skill that I ever used to make you believe in vampires and witches – so that you call me at home and night and ask me if they're really real – I'm going to use that same skill to make you believe that Jesus is the son of God. That's my mission."
Four years later, she announced that she was no longer Christian. She explained her shifting belief: "I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control."
She told the Associated Press, "I believed for a long time that the differences, the quarrels among Christians didn't matter a lot for the individual, that you live your life and stay out of it. But then I began to realize that it wasn't an easy thing to do … I came to the conclusion that if I didn't make this declaration, I was going to lose my mind."
In 1966 musician and songwriter Michael Nesmith (December 30, 1942-December 10, 2021), who had written such songs as "Different Drummer" (later recorded by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys), was playing at the Troubadour in West Hollywood when a friend told him about an ad in Variety seeking "four insane boys." The ensuing NBC musical-comedy series "The Monkees" – a mix of The Beatles and the Marx Brothers – starred four madcap musicians (Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork) who would turn pop culture upside-down.
Their first four albums went to #1, and in 1967 this "made for TV" band, somewhat derisively dubbed the Prefab Four, would outsell The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Their hits included "Daydream Believer," "Last Train to Clarksville," "I'm a Believer," "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "Valleri." Goofy scripts, catchy music, and their endearing personalities – showcased by the show's vigorous editing that pre-dated MTV and music videos – helped "The Monkees" win an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series.
But the four would butt heads with the show's music producer, Don Kirshner, who used outside session musicians to make The Monkees' first two albums. When the show's fictional band became a phenomenon, the producers finally allowed them to play; their third album, "Headquarters," was entirely their own.
In 2016 Nesmith told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Anthony Mason of the producer's somewhat dismissive attitude. "Bob Rafelson said, 'Well, we coulda hired any four guys.' I said, 'Yeah, but you didn't. You hired us four.' And he said, 'Well, but any four guys could do what you're doin'. I said, 'No, they couldn't have. Because what we are, we brought the force of our character to it.'"
The series ended after just two seasons, and the gang appeared in the psychedelic musical-comedy "Head," written by Rafelson and Jack Nicholson. Though a box office failure, the film grew into a cult favorite.
The Monkees eventually went their separate ways. Nesmith started his own group, the First National Band, and was executive producer of the cult film "Repo Man." His 1981 Pacific Arts production, "Elephants Parts," won the first Grammy Award for Long-form Music Video. He also developed a virtual reality performance space, and authored a novel and a memoir, "Infinite Tuesday."
But reruns have kept reintroducing The Monkees to new audiences. The surviving members performed together on tour, and for their 50th anniversary put out a new album, "Good Times!"
Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller (August 14, 1928-December 9, 2021) was the first woman to receive an Academy Award nomination for best director, for her wartime comic-drama, "Seven Beauties."
Attracted to cinema, comic books and Russian drama from a young age, Wertmüller started her career in theater until becoming an acolyte of Federico Fellini, working as his assistant on "8½." She began writing and directing films and TV programs in the 1960s, sometimes under a pseudonym (her 1968 spaghetti western, "The Belle Star Story," is one example), typically exploring politics, wealth, class and sex.
She also started a long collaboration with actor Giancarlo Giannini, whom she directed in nine films, including 1975's "Seven Beauties," in which he played a Neopolitan who kills a pimp, becomes an army deserter, and then debases himself and commits murder in order to survive a Nazi prison camp. The performance earned Giannini an Oscar nomination as well. He also starred in Wertmüller's "Swept Away" (1974), a battle of the sexes between a wealthy woman and a Communist sailor who are stranded on an island.
Her later films drew less critical attention, but she continued to work with such internationally-renowned actors as Sophia Loren ("Saturday, Sunday and Monday"), Marcello Mastroianni ("Blood Feud"), Harvey Keitel ("Camorra"), Candice Bergen ("A Night Full of Rain"), Nastassja Kinski and Rutger Hauer ("Up to Date"), and F. Murray Abraham ("Too Much Romance... It's Time for Stuffed Peppers").
In a 2017 interview for the Criterion Collection, Wertmüller dismissed the distinction she'd earned as the first woman to be up for a best director Oscar. "I've never endorsed the feminist movement," she said. "I consider myself a director, not a female director. I think there's no difference. The difference is between good movies and bad movies. We should not make other distinctions."
2021 would see the deaths of three members of an elite auto racing family. In addition to Bobby Unser and his son, Bobby Unser Jr. (who passed six weeks after his father), Al Unser (May 29, 1939-December 9, 2021), one of only four drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 a record four times, died.
Al won the Indy 500 in 1970, 1971, 1978, and 1987, at age 47, making him the oldest winner in Indy 500 history. He is also the only driver in history to have both a sibling and a child also win one of the biggest races in the world. He made 27 starts in the Indy 500, the third most in history.
He and son Al Jr. were the first father-son pairing at Indianapolis, and in 1985 they battled one another for the CART championship, which the elder Unser won by a single point. He fought back tears while describing the "empty feeling" of defeating his son.
Unser also ran five NASCAR races in his career, finishing fourth in the 1968 Daytona 500. He earned three top-10 finishes in NASCAR. He also won three times in the International Race of Champions, an all-star series that pitted the top drivers from various disciplines against each other.
Unser was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 1986 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1998. His collection of trophies and cars is housed at the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque.
Senator Robert Dole
The Kansas-born Robert Dole (July 22, 1923-December 5, 2021) was a high school athlete who wanted to be a doctor, but World War II intervened. A young Army Captain, he was advancing against Nazi fortifications in Italy when he was hit by gunfire. He lay on the battlefield for 10 hours. His terrible wounds, from which he spent three years recuperating, would cost him the use of his right arm.
The support from his hometown, he told "Sunday Morning" in 2021, was symbolized by a cigar box: "My friends in Dawson's Drugstore in Russell, Kansas, when they heard that I was wounded, they passed the box around and kept it on the counter, and asked people to give money."
He said he decided on a life of public service while still recovering from his wounds: "I figured out that lying in bed the rest of my life was not an option," Dole told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Rita Braver.
In 1950 Dole was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, and, after a stint as County Attorney of Russell County, was elected to the House in 1960, and later the Senate. He was President Gerald Ford's VP pick when he ran for election in 1976. They lost that contest, and Dole was unsuccessful when he sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 and '88.
He spent 27 years in the Senate but resigned, quitting his post as Majority Leader, when he ran against President Bill Clinton in 1996, becoming the last presidential candidate to have served in World War II. He lost, but as his wife, Elizabeth (who later became a Senator herself) said, "Bob Dole is a fighter. You can't hold him down. He's going to bounce back. The third day after he had lost the election, he goes on the Letterman show."
David Letterman: "Bob, what have you been doing lately?"
Dole: "Apparently, not enough, in any event!"
Dole nonetheless became a familiar face as a TV pundit, including in 2003 as a dueling commentator with former President Clinton on "60 Minutes." He was also a lobbyist, a fundraiser for the National World War II Memorial, an advocate for people with disabilities, and an unlikely pitchman (for Pepsi, Visa, and even Viagra).
Among the honors presented to Dole were the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Dole once said, "My pledge one time was to make a difference in the life of at least one person every day. Now, I probably failed part of that, but I still work at it."
The last surviving officer of Easy Company, whose exploits were recounted in the book and HBO miniseries, "Band of Brothers," Edward Shames (June 13, 1922-December 3, 2021) was involved in some of the most important battles of World War II. An operations sergeant, he was still 21 years old when he parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, after which he received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant, and took charge of Easy Company. He fought in Operation Market Garden, Operation Pegasus (a rescue mission that saved 125 trapped British troops), and the Battle of the Bulge. He was also the first member of the 101st Airborne to enter the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, shortly after its liberation.
According to his obituary, when Easy Company entered Hitler's "Eagle's Nest," near the town of Berchtesgaden, Shames acquired a few bottles of cognac that were labeled "for the Fuhrer's use only." It was with this cognac that Shames toasted his oldest son's Bar Mitzvah.
In a 2006 interview for Military History magazine, Shames explained his reputation as a "screamer" to his men, demanding not just "discipline," but "perfection."
"I'm sure that the men didn't love me. I didn't want them to love me; I wanted them to respect me. … This is why I brought more men home than most of the officers in the 506th. I was the only second lieutenant in the regiment who was a platoon leader, and in contrast to the other officers in the 506th, they didn't even relieve me once. I must have been doing something right."
At a reunion in 2002, he recalled, one of his men complimented him: "He said, 'Shames, you are the meanest, roughest, son of a bitch I've ever had to deal with. But you brought us home.'"
Following the war, Shames worked as an expert on Middle East affairs for the National Security Agency, and served in the U.S. Army Reserve Division. He retired as a colonel.
Born in Minneapolis, Arlene Dahl (August 11, 1925-November 29, 2021) became stage-struck as a child, and headed to New York to embark on a modeling and acting career. Her charm and flaming red hair became sought-after in Hollywood.
In a 2015 interview for Mesquite Local News, Dahl recalled Jack Warner inviting her to Hollywood for a screen test after seeing her sing and dance on Broadway in "Mr. Strauss Goes to Boston," in 1945. She declined, expecting the show to have a long run. "He said, 'Give it two or three weeks and you'll call me; here's my card.' He was right. I was soon out of a job." "Mr. Strauss Goes to Boston" closed after 12 performances, and Dahl was signed by Warner Brothers.
She appeared in the 1947 musical "My Wild Irish Rose," before moving to MGM, starring in 1948's "A Southern Yankee" and "The Outriders." She sang and danced in the 1950 musical biopic "Three Little Words," but she was also adept at comedies, noirish dramas and westerns, starring in "Here Come the Girls," "Watch the Birdie," "Caribbean," "Jamaica Run," "Reign of Terror," "Bengal Brigade," "She Played With Fire," and "Scene of the Crime."
Perhaps her most memorable role was in the 1959 Jules Verne epic, "Journey to the Center of the Earth," accompanying James Mason, Pat Boone and a goose into the bowels of the planet.
Married six times (including to actors Fernando Lamas and Lex Barker), Dahl later returned to Broadway, playing Margo Channing in "Applause," and spent three years on the soap opera "One Life to Live." Other TV credits included "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island," "All My Children," and "Love, American Style." She guest-starred in two '90s TV series starring her son, Lorenzo Lamas: "Renegade" and "Air America."
Dahl also penned a syndicated beauty column, and several books, including, "Always Ask a Man: Arlene Dahl's Key to Femininity"; "Beyond Beauty"; "Arlene Dahl's Lovescopes"; "Secrets of Hair Care"; and "Your Beauty Scope." She also designed perfume, lingerie and exercise outfits.
Celebrated fashion designer Virgil Abloh (September 30, 1980-November 28, 2021), one of the most powerful Black executives in an industry historically closed to Blacks, had no formal fashion training (he had a degree in engineering, and a master's in architecture), but he was taught to sew by his seamstress mother.
In 2009, Abloh worked as creative director for Kanye West, and as art director for the 2011 West-Jay-Z album "Watch the Throne," for which Abloh was nominated for a Grammy.
In 2013 he founded the Off-White label, and partnered with Nike to produce a line of sneakers. Abloh also designed furniture for IKEA; refillable bottles for Evian; and Big Mac cartons for McDonald's. His work has been exhibited at the Louvre, Gagosian London, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
After being named artistic director for Louis Vuitton's menswear – the first Black artistic director of men's wear in the French design house's history – Abloh was chosen one of Time magazine's most influential people in 2018.
In a 2019 interview with Vogue, Abloh discussed his work, which builds upon and combines existing forms, concepts and typography; he has been praised as a disruptive influencer and criticized as an appropriator. "That way of designing – to develop everything from zero – comes from a different time. For me, design is about whatever I find is worthy to tell a story about. I don't believe that culture benefits from the idea that this line on a piece of paper has never been drawn in this exact way ever before. My goal is to highlight things – that's why I collaborate a lot, that's why I reference a lot, and that's what makes my body of work what it is."
An orphan at age 9, Lee Elder (July 14, 1934-November 28, 2021) got into golf as a caddie, and polished his game while serving in the Army and, after discharge, joining the United Golf Association tour for Black players. [At the time the PGA was only open to Whites.] One of the UGA's best players, Elder won 18 tournaments. After attending the PGA qualifying school, he earned entry for the 1968 tour. During his rookie year he strode into a sudden-death playoff against Jack Nicklaus at the American Golf Classic, losing after five extra holes.
After winning the PGA's Monsanto Open in 1974, he made history the following year at Augusta National, when he received an invitation, at age 40, to play at the Masters, which until then had been an all-White tournament. He missed the cut while receiving death threats and racist taunts, and was forced to rent two houses to increase his security.
In a 2019 interview with Golf Digest, Elder recalled his initial round at Augusta: "Most of the staff was Black, and on Friday, they left their duties to line the 18th fairway as I walked toward the green. The other patrons cleared the way for them to come to the front, and they were instantly recognizable by their uniforms. This took planning on the part of the employees and moved me very deeply. I couldn't hold back the tears. One club employee shouted in this booming voice that rose above the applause, 'Thank you for coming, Mr. Elder!' Other employees, taking his cue, shouted the same thing. Of all the acknowledgements of what I had accomplished by getting there, this one meant the most."
He would play in the Masters five more times between 1977 and 1981, and his presence proved groundbreaking for other non-White players, including Tiger Woods. Elder notched four wins on the PGA Tour, four tournaments internationally, and in the 1980s won five tournaments on the Senior PGA Tour.
For many years Elder also managed the Langston Golf Course in a historically Black neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C.
His advice for players? "Choose one department of the game and get good at it before branching out. It can be any part – I suggest pitching with a sand wedge – but don't try to swallow the whole game at once. If you try to learn driving, sand play, fairway woods and putting at the same time, the game will eat you up. You'll get frustrated and might quit. Build up confidence in that one area, and then let it spread out to the other parts."
The composer and/or lyricist of some of Broadway's most revolutionary and artistically challenging musicals, Stephen Sondheim (March 22, 1930-November 26, 2021) is credited with helping to reinvent musical theater – a giant of the stage whose distinctive artistic temperament would give life to such shows as "West Side Story," "Gypsy," "Company," "Follies," "A Little Night Music," "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," "Sunday in the Park With George," and "Into the Woods."
As a youngster, Sondheim and his family were friends with Broadway titan Oscar Hammerstein, who became a father figure and mentor to Stephen. In 2002 Sondheim told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Martha Teichner that if it hadn't been for Hammerstein, he probably would have become a mathematician. But he also took to heart Hammerstein's advice to his protégé: "Don't copy me. Be true to yourself."
A graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts, Sondheim learned at the knee of Hammerstein, and from avant-garde composer Milton Babbitt, and he brought to his work a playful precision and a love of word games and puzzles that would color his output (including, in 1973, a screenplay for the twisting murder mystery, "The Last of Sheila").
He'd contributed one song to the 1956 play "Girls of Summer" before he began collaborating with composer Leonard Bernstein on "West Side Story," an updated telling of "Romeo & Juliet" via rival street gangs in Manhattan. Sondheim's lyrics for such songs as "Something's Coming," "Maria," "Tonight," "America," "Cool" and "I Feel Pretty" were sharp, pungent and – combined with Bernstein's vibrant music – timeless.
He followed with another collaboration, with composer Jule Styne: "Gypsy," starring Ethel Merman. But it was for the 1963 comedy "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," for which Sondheim crafted both words and music, that he won his first Tony Award. Starring Zero Mostel, it would also prove one of the longest-running of his shows, with 964 performances.
Though most of Sondheim's musicals were not overpowering box office successes – not of "The Lion King" variety, at any rate – he drew passionate audiences who were not dissuaded by dark properties that commented on race, class or politics, with music that did not bow to Tin Pan Alley traditions. One of his most memorable songs, "Send in the Clowns," from "A Little Night Music," is melancholic to the extreme. (The show was inspired by an Ingmar Bergman film, "Smiles of a Summer Night.") And in the kabuki-style "Pacific Overtures," Sondheim's lyrics offer an acerbic view of the 19th century opening of Japan to the West:
In the middle of the world we float
In the middle of the sea
The realities remain remote
In the middle of the sea
Kings are burning somewhere
Wheels are turning somewhere
Trains are being run, wars are being won
Things are being done somewhere out there
Here, we paint screens
Beginning in the 1970s, Sondheim teamed with director Hal Prince on some of his most innovative shows, including "Follies," "A Little Night Music," and "Sweeney Todd," the grimly delicious tale of a murderous barber seeking revenge, and the meat pie baker who helpfully disposes of his victims.
Though "Merrily We Roll Along," a story of friends told going backwards in time, would prove a difficult show (it was retooled and re-staged several times), Sondheim followed with "Sunday in the Park With George," a study of the creative process, told through the works of Impressionist artist Georges Seurat and his great-grandson, also an artist. "Into the Woods" presented a fresh take on traditional fairy tales and their unexpected outcomes.
Other productions included "Anyone Can Whistle," which opened on April 4, 1964 and closed a week later; "Do I Hear a Waltz?" with composer Richard Rodgers; "Assassins," a revue telling the stories of successful or attempted presidential assassins; "Passion" a story of obsessive love adapted from an 1869 Italian novel; and "Road Show" (a.k.a. "Bounce"), which was workshopped beginning in 1999 but did not play in New York until an Off-Broadway production opened in 2008.
His music has also served as the basis of several revues and compilation shows, including "Side by Side by Sondheim," "Putting It Together," "Mostly Sondheim," and "Sondheim on Sondheim." Beyond the adaptation of his works for movies, Sondheim wrote original music for the 1974 Alain Renais drama "Stavisky," and the Warren Beatty films "Reds" and "Dick Tracy," including a song for Madonna, "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man"), which won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
Sondheim has been awarded the Kennedy Center Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2008 received a Tony Award for lifetime achievement – on top of the eight Tonys he'd won. He also received a Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for "Sunday in the Park With George."
In his 70s, Sondheim told "Sunday Morning" the challenge of writing was not just to top yourself, but to find something fresh, "something you haven't written before."
An act of courage? "It sure is, and it needs more courage as you get older. And that, see, is what I didn't expect."
Drummer Graeme Edge (March 30, 1941-November 11, 2021) co-founded The Moody Blues in Birmingham, England in 1964, and performed on their 16 studio albums, from "The Magnificent Moodies" (1965) through "December" (2003), the band's final release.
Their evolution as a prog-rock group began with their second album, "Days of Future Passed," which featured the Mellotron (an analog synthesizer which incorporated tape loops). The album included orchestral arrangements of classical compositions, interpolated with rock songs, and merged with the band on "Nights in White Satin." Though released in 1967 (including on quadraphonic reel tape), that song would not reach No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard charts until 1972, helped by heavy FM radio airplay, sparked by the playlists of iconoclastic DJs.
In 2018 Edge told Rolling Stone magazine, "Some time later they interviewed the DJ who got it going in Seattle and he said, 'I was on the graveyard shift and I wanted to go out into the car park and smoke my bum and "Nights in White Satin" was long enough to smoke.' If anybody asks me, 'To what do you owe your success?' I say, 'A junkie DJ.'"
In addition to drums, Edge contributed poetry to "Days of Future Passed." As he told Rolling Stone, "We had a problem as we were writing the songs. We had 'Dawn Is a Feeling' and 'Peak Hour,' but there was a big gap until 'Nights.' Being musicians, we didn't have a lot of experience after dawn and before midday! So, I was trying to write a song that spanned that [period], called 'Morning Glory,' with lyrics between morning and evening. Then I went to the guys and said, 'Can you do anything with this?' I spoke the lyric out to them and they looked at me and said, 'There are just too many words. There's no way you can sing this!' Then Tony Clarke said, 'Oh, make it a poem!'"
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight,
Red is gray and yellow white,
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion.
Other albums, many featuring Edge's poetry, included "In Search of the Lost Chord," "On the Threshold of a Dream," "To Our Children's Children's Children," "A Question of Balance," "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour," "Seventh Sojourn," and "Octave."
The group released several more albums in the 1980s and '90s, and had hits with the songs "The Voice," "Sitting at the Wheel," "Your Wildest Dreams," and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere." Their 1993 album, "A Night at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra," was certified gold.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
Sen. Max Cleland
Georgia native Max Cleland (August 24, 1942-November 9, 2021), an accomplished college swimmer and basketball player, was a U.S. Army captain in Vietnam when, on April 8, 1968, he reached for a grenade he thought had fallen from his belt. "When my eyes cleared I looked at my right hand. It was gone. Nothing but a splintered white bone protruded from my shredded elbow," he wrote in his 1980 memoir, "Strong at the Broken Places." He lost his right arm and two legs.
Returning home a triple-amputee, Cleland recalled in a 2002 interview being depressed about his future, but still interested in pursuing a political career: "I sat in my mother and daddy's living room and took stock in my life. No job. No hope of a job. No offer of a job. No girlfriend. No apartment. No car. And I said, 'This is a great time to run for the state Senate."'
Cleland won a state Senate seat, then lost a run for lieutenant governor. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter appointed Cleland to head the Veterans Administration. While he was in charge, the VA would recognize post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a genuine condition, and he worked to provide veterans and their families with improved care.
In 1982 Cleland was elected Georgia's Secretary of State, and in 1996 he won the Senate seat of the retiring Sam Nunn. In 2002, however, he lost his re-election bid to Saxby Chambliss, when the Republican's campaign aired a commercial questioning Cleland's patriotism, alongside images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
Having lost his sense of purpose with his bitter Senate loss, Cleland wound up back at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with PTSD. The loss, he told CBS News in 2009, "threw me right back in war," prompting "massive anxiety … powerlessness and hopelessness" that brought back the sensation of lying bleeding on the battlefield.
Cleland recovered, and would serve as a director of the Export-Import Bank. He was later named by President Barack Obama to be secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission.
Beginning his acting career on Broadway at age seven, Dean Stockwell (March 5, 1936-November 7, 2021) would quit show business several times during his life. Yet he kept returning, earning praise as a character actor for his memorable performances in such films as David Lynch's "Blue Velvet," Wim Wenders' "Paris, Texas," Robert Altman's "The Player," and Jonathan Demme's "Married to the Mob" (for which he earned his sole Academy Award nomination). He also received four Emmy nominations for his role as Admiral Al Calavicci, who appears as a hologram to aid the time-traveling scientist played by Scott Bakula, in the cult sci-fi series "Quantum Leap."
The son of a stage actor, the young Stockwell's role in the Broadway play "The Innocent Voyage" led to an MGM contract, and roles in the films "Anchors Aweigh," "Gentlemen's Agreement," "Song of the Thin Man," "The Boy With Green Hair," "Kim," "Down to the Sea in Ships," "The Secret Garden," and "Stars in My Crown." He quit acting at age 16, but was back on Broadway a few years later, as a young killer alongside Roddy McDowell in "Compulsion."
He earned plaudits for his mature roles in the films "Sons and Lovers," the movie version of "Compulsion," and Sidney Lumet's 1962 adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey Into Night." Stockwell was twice awarded best actor at the Cannes Film Festival. He also directed a program of Beckett and Ionesco plays in Los Angeles.
In the mid-'60s he dropped out of show business again, but was back a few years later, with appearances in "Psych-Out," "The Dunwich Horror," Dennis Hopper's "The Last Movie," "The Loners," and such TV series as "Mannix," "Mission: Impossible," "Night Gallery," "Columbo," and "Police Story."
His career again took off in the 1980s with "Dune," "Paris, Texas," "To Live and Die in L.A.," "Blue Velvet," "Gardens of Stone," "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" (as Howard Hughes), "Air Force One," and "The Manchurian Candidate." TV roles included "Chicago Hope," "JAG," and "Battlestar Galactica." He reteamed with Bakula as a guest star on "Star Trek: Enterprise" and "NCIS: New Orleans."
In 2004 Stockwell told Las Vegas Weekly that he attributed his long career to "good fortune and fate. It amazes me that I'm still alive and that I'm still working."
He was featured on what is considered the first standup comedy album, "At Sunset" (1955), and it was, he said, "illegal. … Nobody told us they were recording it. They just recorded it and put it out." That brazen act mirrored the boldness that characterized the humor of satirist Mort Sahl (May 11, 1927-October 26, 2021), whose comedy provided a commentary on politicians and current events that was in sync with an anti-establishment audience during the 1950s and '60s.
Sahl did not tell mother-in-law jokes. Instead, he mocked presidents. Reading from a newspaper, Sahl would annotate news stories with cutting comments, often ending his routines by asking: "Is there any group I haven't offended yet?"
Sahl gained fame in 1953 at San Francisco's hungry i, a nexus for beatniks and college kids, and soon appeared at nightclubs across the country, and on television as the guest of Steve Allen and Jack Paar. But while he inspired generations of comedians with his pointed observations about the day's events, he did not consider himself a comedian. "I never said I was one," he once noted. "I just sort of tell the truth, and everybody breaks up along the way."
Born in Montreal, Sahl, whose family moved to the U.S., served in the Air Force, and earned money writing jokes for comedians. He would take to the stage himself when he realized his clients were "too dumb" to get the humor.
The assassination of JFK in 1963 devastated Sahl (he'd even written jokes for the president, as he would for Presidents Reagan and Bush), and his popularity declined when he began using his monologues to read from, and critique, the Warren Commission Report.
The loss of his only child, Morton Jr., who died at age 19, led Sahl further into a moribund period, though he continued working the college circuit and small clubs.
In 2004 Sahl told The AV Club that, for comedians, having a specific viewpoint is "everything, because you filter the events through it. Otherwise, their stuff is trivial. … After your heart is broken, then you can do the material. When people write comedy from neutrality, it just gets kind of silly."
Gen. Colin Powell
Gen. Colin Powell (April 5, 1937-October 18, 2021) often shared his personal story as that of the only child of Jamaican immigrants, whose not-very-promising start in the South Bronx took a turn when he discovered the ROTC at City College. When he put on his first uniform, he wrote (in his 1995 autobiography "My American Journey"), "I liked what I saw."
Powell spent 35 years in the Army, rising to the rank of four-star general. He was one of more than 16,000 military advisers sent to South Vietnam by President John F. Kennedy, receiving a Medal of Valor for going back into a burning helicopter to rescue others. He would serve as a military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, commander of the Army's 5th Corps in Germany, and national security assistant to President Ronald Reagan, before becoming the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, overseeing the 1991 U.S. invasion of Kuwait led by President George H.W. Bush.
He later joined the administration of President George W. Bush as Secretary of State, the nation's first Black head diplomat. His tenure at the State Department was largely defined by the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. He was the first American official to publicly blame Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, and he flew to Pakistan to demand that then-President Pervez Musharraf cooperate with the U.S. in going after the Afghanistan-based terror group. (It was in Pakistan where bin Laden would be killed nearly 10 years later.)
Powell's reputation, however, was marred by his 2003 address to the United Nations Security Council in which he cited faulty intelligence information to claim that Iragi President Saddam Hussein secretly possessed, or was developing, weapons of mass destruction, and posed a major regional and global threat. The following month, President Bush ordered the invasion. Though the Iraqi leader was deposed, the weapons never materialized.
Despite the power vacuum created by the invasion, and years of insurgent fighting that killed countless Iraqi civilians, Powell maintained in a 2012 Associated Press interview that, on balance, the U.S. succeeded in Iraq. "I think we had a lot of successes," he said. "Iraq's terrible dictator is gone."
Though he worked in Republican administrations, Powell was courted by both Republicans and Democrats to run for president, a position he declined. ("I have no political fire burning in my belly," he told "60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley in 1992.) Powell publicly endorsed Democrats in the past four presidential elections, including Sen. Barack Obama (calling him "a transformational figure" who also represented a generational change), and became a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, whom he called "a national disgrace."
Powell told Bradley that the U.S. had become more inclusive in the time since he was a young Army recruit stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia, and that the spirit of cooperation with which the Gulf War was fought and won needed to be brought back to America: "That's very difficult, but I think it's a matter of being a lot more tolerant of each other, and recognizing that whatever our racial differences or ethnic differences might be, or even economic differences, we're all Americans, and we all have to live in this home that we call America."
The tunes of Oscar-winning British songwriter Leslie Bricusse (January 29, 1931-October 19, 2021) stretched from the factory of Willy Wonka to the spy world of James Bond, and sparked hit records by Sammy Davis Jr., Shirley Bassey, and Anthony Newley.
A Cambridge University graduate who was president of the Footlights performance club, he began writing music for the West End and the movies. Working either solo or in collaboration, Bricusse wrote words, music or both, including lyrics for the Bond theme songs "Goldfinger" and "You Only Live Twice" (with music by John Barry), and the Academy Award-nominated score for "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory"; its songs, co-written with Anthony Newley, include "Pure Imagination" and "The Candy Man."
Bricusse and Newley also wrote the musicals "Stop the World - I Want to Get Off" (which featured the Grammy-winning song "What Kind of Fool Am I?") and "The Roar of the Greasepaint - the Smell of the Crowd."
Bricusse won an Academy Award for his song "Talk to the Animals," from the 1968 musical "Doctor Doolittle." He won a second Oscar for his work, with Henry Mancini, on "Victor/Victoria." Other credits include "Two for the Road," "In Like Flint," "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," "Scrooge," "Revenge of the Pink Panther," "Santa Claus: The Movie," "Sherlock Holmes: The Musical," "Cyrano," "Jekyl & Hyde," and "Sammy." He collaborated with John Williams on songs for "A Guide for the Married Man," "Superman," "Home Alone," "Hook," and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
In a 2021 NPR interview, Bricusse ruminated on the lasting appear of his "Willy Wonka" song, "Pure Imagination": "It's a good thought for people, especially young people, to carry with them through life. You'll be free if you truly wish to be, at the end is, to me, the most important line in the film. It's a reflective thought on how to make a life work."
In addition to being a jazz musician who performed with the likes of Dizzie Gillespie, Tom Morey (August 15, 1935-October 14, 2021) was an engineer who brought several innovations to the world of surfing, including the invention of the Boogie Board.
Born in Detroit, Morey moved to Laguna Beach, Calif., as a kid, becoming an avid bodysurfer. He developed the Concave Nose Pocket and the Wing-tipped Nose, and became a sponsored pro surfer. Employed at Douglas Aircraft (and, later, Boeing), he turned his experience with composite materials into surfboards with his company, Tom Morey Skeg Works. He created the first TRAF polypropylene fin, as well as a three-piece surfboard that folded into a suitcase.
In Hawaii, Morey created several air-lubricated surfboards. In 1974 he formed Morey Boogie, and soon began production of Boogie Boards – a large piece of polyethylene foam about half the length and a fraction of the weight of a surfboard, with a rounded nose (he'd used a hot iron to mold its shape), and internal twin fiberglass rods for support. Boogie Boards (or "bodyboards," as sold by competing manufacturers) proved an immensely popular water toy. Morey then founded another company, Starwaves, and sold soft-shell surfboards like the Sizzle, manufactured under his newly-adopted name, simply "Y."
In a 2020 interview with Surfer Today, looking back on his life, Morey said, "I realize how complex and vast life is. My role is so tiny. … And yet, my dreams always know where to reach me. I did okay, so dreams are also good. I must be doing some things right. … Although I perhaps could have done more, I helped revolutionize life on this planet – gave billions of hours of pleasure to millions of people."
Composer and musician Paddy Moloney (August 1, 1938-October 12, 2021) was a founding member and leader of the Irish musical group The Chieftains. At a young age he was playing a plastic tin whistle, and at eight he was being instructed in the uilleann pipes by Leo Rowsome.
After performing with different mixes of musicians, Moloney hit upon what would become the lineup of The Chieftains in 1962, recording their first of 44 albums. Over the next half-century the group would broaden the appeal of traditional Irish music around the world, while receiving six Grammy Awards, with 21 nominations.
Moloney also recorded or arranged music for such films as "Barry Lyndon," "The Grey Fox," "Gangs of New York," "Far and Away," and "Two If By Sea."
In addition to recording, Moloney managed Claddagh Records for several years in the late 1960s and early '70s, building a catalogue of folk, traditional, classical, and spoken word recordings.
In 2012 Moloney collaborated with folk, rock and country artists (including Bon Iver, the Decembrists, Low Anthem, the Civil Wars, Punch Brothers, and Imelda May) on an album, "Voice of Ages," which celebrated The Chieftains' impact on other genres. He described to The New York Times their shared aesthetic: "What's happening here with these young groups is they're coming back to the melody, back to the real stuff, the roots and the folk feeling of them all. I can hear any of them singing folk songs."
Sister Megan Rice
Born to activist parents, Sister Megan Rice (January 31, 1930-October 10, 2021) became a nun and Catholic peace activist who spent two years in federal prison while in her 80s after breaking into a government security complex to protest nuclear weapons.
After joining the Society of the Holy Child of Jesus to become a nun, and later earning degrees from Villanova and Boston University, she taught at elementary schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts for more than a decade before being assigned to work in Nigeria. Rice spent 23 years in West Africa, where she learned about the plowshares movement, a reference to a Biblical passage ("They will beat their swords into ploughshares") about the end of war. Her activism was also heavily influenced by her uncle, who spent four months in Nagasaki, Japan, after it and Hiroshima had been leveled by atomic bombs.
When she returned to the U.S., Rice began her involvement in anti-nuclear activism. Court records show she already had been convicted four times for protest activities when she (then age 82) and two fellow Catholic peace activists, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in July 2012. The trio cut through several fences and spent two hours outside a bunker storing much of the nation's bomb-grade uranium, where they hung banners, prayed, hammered on the outside of the bunker, and spray-painted peace slogans. They were arrested and charged with felony sabotage.
Federal prosecutors described Rice and her codefendants as "recidivists and habitual offenders" who would break the law again "as soon as they are physically capable of doing so," according to court records. Rice's attorneys sought leniency from U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar, arguing the nun's devotion to Christian nonviolence posed little threat to the public. But the judge was unmoved, telling the defendants their moral beliefs were "not a get out of jail free card." Rice was sentenced to three years in prison, and Walli and Oertje-Obed each received more than five years.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the sabotage charge, and the three were freed in May 2015 after serving two years. They were later resentenced to time already served on a lesser charge of injuring government property.
While testifying during her jury trial, Rice defended her decision to break into the Oak Ridge uranium facility as an attempt to stop "manufacturing that … can only cause death," according to a trial transcript. "I had to do it," she said of her decision to break the law. "My guilt is that I waited 70 years to be able to speak what I knew in my conscience."
Melvin Van Peebles
He was a man of letters, music, theater and film, earning the sobriquet "Godfather of Black Cinema" for helping to usher in a wave of "blaxploitation" movies in the 1970s that influenced generations of filmmakers. The best-known work of Melvin Van Peebles (August 21, 1932-September 22, 2021) was the 1971 movie "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," an indie film that he wrote, produced, directed, starred in and scored. It was a violent tale of a Black street hustler on the run after killing police officers who were beating a Black revolutionary. Despite its low budget and limited distribution (it initially received an X rating), the film became a box office hit, inspiring Hollywood to chase after a lucrative but untapped Black film market.
In 2002 Van Peebles complained that subsequent Black films failed to address the political, instead sensationalizing crime: "What Hollywood did – they suppressed the political message, added caricature – and blaxploitation was born. The colored intelligentsia were not too happy about it."
His road to making what became the #1 film in America was circuitous. A graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, he joined the Air Force, then moved to Mexico and worked as a portrait painter, then moved to San Francisco where he wrote short stories and made short films while driving cable cars. The job offers he received in Hollywood didn't rise far above parking attendant, so he moved to Holland, studying astronomy and taking classes at the Dutch National Theatre. In Paris he adapted his work into French, and made a feature film: "La Permission/The Story of a Three Day Pass" (1967), about an affair between a French woman and a Black U.S. soldier. It won a critics' prize at the San Francisco Film Festival.
Asked by CBS Station KPIX in 1967 about how one rises from cable car grip man to internationally recognized film director, Van Pebbles said, "Well, you don't pay attention to what people tell you."
Van Peebles was hired to direct the satire "Watermelon Man," starring Godfrey Cambridge as a White bigot who wakes up one day as a Black man. The money he earned would bankroll "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" (which has recently received a 4K restoration for its 50th anniversary).
Refusing to work in movies without control, Van Peebles wrote and produced several plays and musicals on Broadway, including the Tony-nominated "Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death" and "Don't Play Us Cheap." He also co-wrote the 1977 Richard Pryor film "Greased Lighting," about Wendell Scott, the first Black race car driver. He penned the screenplay for "Panther," adapted from his novel and directed by his son, Mario Van Peebles. He also recorded several albums.
His career path took yet another turn in the 1980s, when Van Peebles became a Wall Street options trader and wrote a financial self-help guide titled "Bold Money."
In 2004 Van Peebles discussed with Filmmaker Magazine how his experience with "Sweetback" challenged the film industry: "I did the one thing a Black guy can't do – succeed without a master. When I finished the film, I had to hire me a White guy to pretend he was the boss to sell the damn film! …
"When I didn't fail, everybody got pissed off! You dig it? I've not had a real job offer since I made 'Sweetback's.' So, I just went to Broadway and did very well in the theater. But it wasn't a surprise, it wasn't a shock. My feelings weren't hurt. This is what you expect. And hallelujah, that made it possible for someone else."
Actor Willie Garson (February 20, 1964-September 21, 2021) played talent agent Stanford Blatch, the devoted and stylish best male friend of Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw, on the TV series "Sex and the City" and in its movie sequels. [He was filming an upcoming series revival for HBO Max called "And Just Like That."]
A native of Highland Park, N.J., Garson began studying acting at age 13 at the Actors Institute in New York. Among his hundreds of TV and film appearances were roles in "White Collar" (as the con man Mozzie), "Newhart," "Mr. Belvedere," "Groundhog Day," "The X-Files," "Twin Peaks," "Melrose Place," "Ally McBeal," "Star Trek: Voyager," "NYPD Blue," "CSI: Miami," "Hawaii Five-0," "Two and a Half Men," "Whole Day Down," "Magnum P.I.," and "Supergirl." He played Lee Harvey Oswald three times, in "Ruby," "Quantum Leap," and "MADtv."
In 2011 he gave advice to actors in an interview with the Daily Actor: "I actually teach an acting workshop, and my general advice is, bring yourself to the role. No two people are doing the same role the same way and there's a reason for that. You have your reality, your physicality, your hairline, your life experiences, and that is what makes acting interesting. That's what makes people interested in actors, is them bringing what they bring to the role – not to do it like someone else do it."
George Holliday (June 1960-Sept. 19, 2021), a plumber, had recently purchased a Sony video camera to document a friend's marathon run when he was awakened by a police helicopter after midnight on March 3, 1991. He stepped outside his San Fernando Valley home to record the beating by several White police officers of a Black man who'd been pulled over on a traffic stop. The victim was Rodney King, who was kicked, punched, tasered and bound. Holliday recorded nine minutes of the confrontation (he'd missed the initial interaction) and turned over his videotape to a local TV station, which later shared it with CNN.
The footage became an international sensation, and was a critical piece of evidence in the criminal trial of the officers. When they were acquitted on charges of assault and excessive use of force in April 1992, the outcry led to rioting in the city, with hundreds of businesses looted and burned. More than 60 people died in the violence, primarily in South Los Angeles.
Holliday told Britain's Sun newspaper that he later encountered King at a gas station, failing to recognize him at first since he'd recovered from his beating: "He said, 'You don't know who I am, do you?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'Well, you saved my life.'"
Holliday, an early example of a so-called "citizen journalist" whose video or photos document important events, attempted to profit from his footage, but saw little after it was widely distributed. He lost a suit against the station that had shared the video, but did license the footage for a music video and also the Spike Lee film "Malcolm X."
But the Rodney King tape's role in casting a light on police brutality would be instrumental in inspiring others to use video cameras (and later, smartphones) to record interactions with police, such as Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin's murder of George Floyd. It also helped further calls for police body cameras to document officers' actions.
Born Suzanne Burce, Jane Powell (April 1, 1929-Sept. 16, 2021) started performing at age five as a singing prodigy on Portland, Oregon radio. On a trip to Los Angeles, she appeared on a network radio talent show, performing an aria from "Carmen." Her 2½-octave voice won her a contract with MGM, which billed her as "Jane Powell" – the name of her character in her first film, "Song of the Open Road."
On screen, Powell quickly graduated to lavish musicals, including "A Date With Judy," "Royal Wedding," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "Hit the Deck." Other films included "Young, Rich and Pretty," "Small Town Girl" and "Three Sailors and a Girl."
But as musicals fell out of favor, Powell left MGM, and performed on stage, touring in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" and "I Do! I Do!," and replacing Debbie Reynolds on Broadway in "Irene." Her TV credits included variety shows, a remake of "Meet Me in St. Louis," and guest spots on "Fantasy Island," "The Love Boat," "Murder, She Wrote," "Growing Pains," and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
In 2000, Powell explained to the New York Observer why she abandoned her singing career for more dramatic roles: "I can't hit the high notes, and I won't be second-rate."
For the Off-Broadway comedy "Avow," Powell played a devout Catholic who was mother to a pregnant, single woman in love with a priest, and a gay son who wants to marry his lover. "It's the first time in my life a director has said anything to me besides, 'Just be Jane Powell,'" she said.
Raised in Quebec City, Norm Macdonald (Oct. 17, 1959-Sept. 14, 2021) was a stand-up comedian and a writer for "Roseanne" when he was hired to write and perform on "Saturday Night Live" in 1993. He would become known for his impressions of Bob Dole, Larry King, David Letterman and Burt Reynolds, about whom he told New York Magazine in 2018, "I always loved him. Burt had the timing of a stand-up. When I was doing my impression, I was like, 'I know why I'm getting laughs: because I'm stealing his great work.'"
His deadpan style made him a perfect anchorman for "Weekend Update." However, his incessant and cutting jokes about one of his favorite targets, O.J. Simpson, would cost him his job; he was fired mid-season in 1998 by NBC Entertainment executive Don Ohlmeyer, who was a friend of Simpson's. [When MacDonald announced his firing while a guest on Letterman's late-night show, Letterman thought he was putting on an Andy Kaufman-esque act.]
After "SNL" Macdonald starred in a sitcom, "The Norm Show" (a.k.a. "Norm"), as a hockey player-turned-social worker; "A Minute With Stan Hooper"; "Sports Show with Norm Macdonald"; "Norm Macdonald Live"; and "Norm Macdonald Has a Show." In addition to countless guest appearances on late-night shows, he also appeared on "Sunnyside" and "The Middle," and provided voicework for "Family Guy" and "The Orville."
Of his standup philosophy, Macdonald told The New York Times in 2018 that "Making people laugh is a gift. Preaching to them is not a gift. There are people who can do that better – preachers."
Impresario George Wein (Oct. 3, 1925-Sept. 13, 2021) helped found the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, creating the template for such music events as Woodstock and Lollapalooza.
A former jazz club owner and aspiring pianist, who also started the Storyville record label in Boston, Wein began the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 with a stellar lineup (which included Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and Lester Young) and a drenching downpour of rain. But he was back the following year with Louis Armstrong, and with Duke Ellington and his band in 1956.
That first gathering was inspired by a socialite's complaint that summers in Newport, R.I., were "boring." "What was a festival to me?" Wein later said. "I had no rulebook to go by. I knew it had to be something unique, that no jazz fan had ever been exposed to." So, he improvised, combining the energy of a Harlem jazz club with the ambience of a classical concert at Tanglewood.
For more than 50 years Wein led the festival, which showcased such artists as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Wynton Marsalis, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, B.B. King, Dave Brubeck, Sly and the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, Ike and Tina Turner, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. The success of Newport would inspire other jazz festivals across the U.S. and in Europe. In 1959, Wein helped found a companion folk festival, at which Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and the Kingston Trio performed. During the 1963 festival, Bob Dylan turned up with an electric band, and without an acoustic instrument – a landmark music event.
In 2005, Wein sold his company, Festival Productions Inc., and took on a more limited role at Newport, later establishing a nonprofit foundation to oversee the events. "I want the festivals to go on forever," Wein told The Associated Press. "With me it's not a matter of business. This is my life."
He was the Humphrey Bogart of France – a magnetic and virile personality whose unconventional movie-star looks nonetheless dominated international screens over the course of five decades. Actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (April 9, 1933-September 6, 2021) appeared in more than 80 films, by such filmmakers as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Melville, Louis Malle, Claude Lelouch and Agnès Varda, his best-known appearance being the New Wave hit "Breathless" (1960), opposite Jean Seberg.
The son of a famed sculptor and a painter, Belmondo in his youth trained as a boxer, but when he switched to acting lessons, one of his teachers mocked the idea that, with his looks, he could ever be a romantic leading man. After work in regional theaters, he was spotted by Godard, who cast him in a short film, "Charlotte and Her Boyfriend." He played a gangster in Claude Sautet's "Classe tous risques (Consider All Risks)," before Godard picked him to star in "Breathless," an international breakthrough for both director and star.
The actor who could never be taken seriously as a leading man would, in the next decade, star opposite Anna Karina, Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Gina Lollobrigida, Ursula Andress and Genevieve Bujold. His films – comedies, dramas and actioners – showcased his athleticism and projected an alienation that benefited his portrayals of rogue lovers, outcasts, criminals and antiheroes.
In the 1980s Belmondo returned to the stage, in a 1987 Paris production of Jean-Paul Sartre's "Kean," and won a Cesar Award (the French Oscar) for "Itinerary of a Spoiled Child." His final film role, several years after suffering a stroke, was in 2008's "A Man and His Dog," a role he took on the condition that he be allowed to show his infirmity. "It's me, without any special effects," he told The New York Times in 2009. "I hope to be an example for all. I hope."
Broadcast veteran Willard Scott (March 7, 1934-September 4, 2021) started his 65-year-long career at NBC as a page, the springboard for many television résumés, and in Scott's case that included serving for more than three decades as the weatherman for the network's morning show, "Today." But not many pages could say they'd also dressed up as Bozo the Clown or Ronald McDonald – or as Brazilian singer Carmen Miranda, whom Scott once impersonated as a stunt to raise a $1,000 donation for the USO.
His stint as Bozo came after being picked among his station's announcers to attend clown school in California. "I was either going to be a politician when I graduated, or Bozo," he said in 1997. "And I chose the straight life; I chose Bozo."
Joining "Today" in 1980, Scott charmed the audience with his self-deprecating humor and cheerful personality, which extended to congratulating viewers who were celebrating their 100th birthdays – 40,000 centenarians, by one count, during his 35 years on the broadcast.
A fan favorite of young and old, Scott was covering the parade at President George H.W. Bush's inauguration, when he was greeted by first lady Barbara Bush, who ran over to Scott on the sidelines and planted a big kiss on his lips. "I got a seven-year contract out of that kiss!" Scott said in a 2015 "Today" retrospective.
NFL wide receiver David Patten (August 19, 1974-September 2, 2021) caught Tom Brady's first postseason touchdown pass – a leaping 8-yard reception against the St. Louis Rams – to help the New England Patriots win their first Super Bowl title in 2002. He helped the Patriots to two more championships, in 2004 and 2005.
During his 12 seasons in the NFL (he also played for the New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns, and New York Giants), Patten appeared in 147 games, catching 324 passes for 4,715 yards and 24 touchdowns.
After retiring from professional football, Patten returned to Western Carolina University, his alma mater, to join the coaching staff.
In a 2013 interview with the Western Carolina Journal, Patten recounted the rough, early years of his career (being cut loose from the Canadian Football League, ignored during the 1996 NFL draft, and, after a year in the Arena Football League, being picked up, then dropped by the Giants), and how he finally found his footing with Brady and the Patriots.
"My dream had come true," Patten said. "Everybody dreams of catching a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl, and I achieved that. It was as if all of the hard work, all of the setbacks had made it that much sweeter. It made it all worth it."
Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis (July 29, 1925-September 2, 2021) was renowned for creating rousing music while leading a life of rousing political defiance, which included several years as a member of the Greek parliament.
Born on the eastern Aegean island of Chios, Theodorakis began writing music and poetry in his teens, just as Greece entered World War II. His involvement in left-wing resistance groups led to his arrests by Italian and German occupiers, and persecution after the war by the Greek regime. He was jailed, and as a result of severe beatings and torture, including mock executions, Theodorakis suffered broken limbs, respiratory problems and other injuries that plagued his health for the rest of his life. Despite the hardships, he graduated from Athens Music School and continued his studies in Paris.
A prolific career as a composer included more than 1,000 songs, as well as symphonies and chamber music, operas, and music for films and ballet. A music series based on poems written by Nazi concentration camp survivor Iakovos Kambanellis, "The Ballad of Mauthausen," described the horrors of camp life and the Holocaust.
But it was the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis' "Zorba the Greek," in 1964, and Theodorakis' slow-to-frenetic folk music, that made him a household name.
As Theodorakis' fame grew, political turmoil in Greece led to his compositions being banned by the military dictatorship then in power. Placed in a concentration camp, Theodorakis was ultimately freed following an international outcry, and went into exile in Paris, from which he maintained his activism, his music becoming a soundtrack of resistance.
In a 2017 interview with the Greek newspaper Proto Thema, Theodorakis talked about facing his torturer in prison, who'd asked him if he knew that his life was worth nothing. Theodorakis responded by humming the theme from "Zorba the Greek." When his torturer asked what it was, Theodorakis replied, "'It's "Zorba"'s music. If I die, every time this is played you will be haunted by "Zorba." Both you and your superiors.' … And that's how I was saved, I think. 'Zorba' must have saved me. Otherwise, I would have been done for."
He also contributed the scores for 1969's "Z" (the Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Film), and the 1973 Al Pacino police drama "Serpico."
For most of the 1980s he was a member of parliament for the Greek Communist Party, but later served in the cabinet of the conservative government. His defenders saw him as a unifier, trying to heal the nation's longstanding political divisions.
Gruff and curmudgeonly on the outside, with a gooey center: That was how the character of Lou Grant, the boss of Mary Richards on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," cemented actor Ed Asner (November 15, 1929-August 29, 2021) in the popular imagination.
A high school football player who had studied journalism at the University of Chicago, Asner switched to acting, making his debut as Thomas Becket in a campus production of T.S. Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral." After a stint in the Army Signal Corps, working at an auto plant and a steel mill, and driving a cab, he appeared at Chicago's Playwrights Theatre Club and the improv troupe Second City, before a trip to Hollywood to appear in the series "Naked City."
Asner began amassing more than 400 film and TV appearances, from the John Wayne western "El Dorado," to the Elvis Presley vehicles "Kid Galahad" and "Change of Habit." His other credits included "Route 66," "The Untouchables," "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," "The Virginian," "Dr. Kildare," "The Outer Limits," "The Defenders," "Slattery's People," "The Satan Bug," "The Rat Patrol," "Gunsmoke," "The Fugitive," "The Wild Wild West," "Mission Impossible," "The FBI," "Ironside," and "They Call Me Mister Tibbs."
For seven seasons beginning in 1970, Asner portrayed Mary Tyler Moore's boss at the WJM-TV newsroom. His introduction to us, and to prospective employee Mary Richards, was hilariously pithy:
Grant: "You know what? You've got spunk."
Richards: "Oh! Well ..."
Grant: "I HATE spunk!"
"That audience was like an animal," Asner recalled for "Sunday Morning" in 2012. "Three hundred people, and they went Aaahhhhhhh!!! I felt like I could command them to walk off a cliff!"
Then, when Moore's comedy went off the air, he continued in a spin-off series, "Lou Grant," an hour-long drama in which Grant returned to newspaper work as the city editor of a Los Angeles daily. Asner starred in that series for five years, and between the two shows won five Emmys for playing the same character. (He received two more Emmys for the miniseries "Rich Man, Poor Man" and "Roots.")
Asner served as president of the Screen Actors Guild at the time he starred in "Lou Grant." When he spoke out against U.S. involvement in El Salvador, the furor led to boycotts by advertisers and the series being cancelled. (CBS insisted that declining ratings were the reason.)
Other roles included "Fort Apache, the Bronx," "Daniel," "The Bronx Zoo," "JFK," "Mad About You," "ER," "Elf," "The Practice," "Center of the Universe," "The Good Wife," "Forgive Me," "Dead to Me," and "Cobra Kai." Among his numerous vocal performances, the most notable was as the centerpiece of the Oscar-winning Pixar animated film, "Up," as an elderly man whose house takes flight courtesy of balloons.
Asner continued to be politically active, publishing "The Grouchy Historian: An Old-Time Lefty Defends Our Constitution Against Right-Wing Hypocrites and Nutjobs."
In 2012 "Sunday Morning" correspondent Rita Braver asked the then-82-year-old about his starring role in the Broadway play, "Grace": "I just think a lot of people as successful as you are, they wouldn't put themselves through this, out there every night."
"Well, then, they don't love acting," Asner replied. "I love acting."
From childhood Charlie Watts (June 2, 1941-August 24, 2021) was passionate about music, particularly jazz. He taught himself the drums, which he played as a side gig to his day job at an advertising agency. After performing with Mick Jagger in Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, he joined the Rolling Stones, in 1963, and would be their drummer until his death.
Watts was ranked among the greatest of rock drummers, as the Stones rose to international superstardom. Self-effacing, Watts largely avoided the drugs and personal dramas that affected other band members, and was a steadying influence for a group known as much for its longevity as for its musical supremacy.
Watt's remarkable percussion contributed to the success of such classics as "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Get Off of My Cloud," "Gimme Shelter," "19th Nervous Breakdown," "Miss Amanda Jones," "Paint It, Black," "Beast of Burden," "Honky Tonk Women," "Moonlight Mile," and "Tumbling Dice."
As a jazz aficionado, Watts recorded several albums, beginning in 1986 with "Live at Fulham Town Hall." He toured and recorded with his own group, the Charlie Watts Quintet, and the expanded Charlie Watts and the Tentet.
In 1994 Watts told "60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley, "I always consider myself a drummer, you know? That's to keep the time and help everyone else do what they're doing. I don't really like solo-type things. I mean, I do sort of solo records, but they're sort of jazz-type things, and I do that because I don't do that with the Rolling Stones."
Singer-songwriter Micki Grant (June 30, 1929-August 22, 2021) earned two of her three Tony Award nominations for the 1973 musical "Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope," a revue in which rock, jazz, soul, gospel and spoken-word told of the Black urban experience in the early '70s.
"There was a lot of angry theater out there at the time, especially in the Black community," Grant told The New York Times in 2018. "I wanted to come at it with a soft fist. I wanted to open eyes but not turn eyes away."
She also wrote the music for the 1978 adaptation of Studs Terkel's "Working." Grant's other theatre credits included "Your Arms Too Short to Box With God," "Eubie!," "Alice," and "The Prodigal Sister."
Her song "Pink Shoelaces," a hit for Dodie Stephens in 1959, would appear in such TV shows as "The Monkees" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."
As an actress, Grant appeared on stage in "The Blacks," "The Cradle Will Rock," "Having Our Say," and "Brecht on Brecht," and on TV in the soaps "Another World," "Guiding Light," "Somerset," "The Edge of Night," and "All My Children."
Don Everly (February 1, 1937-August 21, 2021) and his brother, Phil, grew up in a musical family, the sons of Ike and Margaret Everly, who were folk and country music singers. In the 1940s, Don and his brother would join their parents on their family's radio show in Shenandoah, Iowa, singing as The Everly Family. In the 1950s, after moving to Nashville, Don and Phil signed with Cadence Records, and began a long streak of hits – poignant pop and country-rock songs with yearning harmonies that spoke to their rural roots.
The Everly Brothers had 19 Top 40 hits, including "Bye Bye Love," "Let It Be Me," "All I Have to Do Is Dream," "Wake Up Little Susie," "Cathy's Clown," "When Will I Be Loved," and "Crying in the Rain."
In 1973 they broke up, dramatically so, on stage at Knott's Berry Farm in California. Phil threw down his guitar down and walked off, as Don told the crowd, "The Everly Brothers died 10 years ago."
Don recorded three solo albums in the '70s, but the duo reunited in 1983, "sealing it with a hug," Phil said. They continued with successful concert tours in the U.S. and Europe, and had late-career success with "On the Wings of a Nightingale" (written by Paul McCartney) and "Born Yesterday." They were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Don Everly said in a 1986 Associated Press interview that he and his brother were successful because "we never followed trends. We did what we liked and followed our instincts. Rock 'n' roll did survive, and we were right about that. Country did survive, and we were right about that. You can mix the two, but people said we couldn't."
Tom T. Hall
Country music singer-songwriter and author Tom T. Hall (May 25, 1936-August 20, 2021) was nicknamed "The Storyteller," for songs that spoke of life's joys, slights, and blue-collar travails.
Born in Kentucky, Hall wrote his first song by age nine. He would become one of Nashville's biggest songwriters, composing hundreds of songs for himself or others, including Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, George Jones and Waylon Jennings. A dozen of them became No. 1 hits. Among his biggest were "Harper Valley PTA," "I Love," "Country Is," "I Care," "I Like Beer," "Faster Horses (The Cowboy and The Poet)," and "(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine."
He recorded more than two dozen albums. A member of the Grand Ole Opry, Hall hosted the syndicated TV show "Pop! Goes the Country." He was inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Hall also penned several books – songwriting guides, short stories, and novels. And while his songs sold millions of recording, he won his Grammy Award for writing liner notes.
Artist Chuck Close (July 5, 1940-August 19, 2021) was an early adherent of photo-realism, who gained international acclaim in 1968 with a huge, nine-foot-tall black-and-white self-portrait. He would spend the next 50 years re-defining just what a portrait was – breaking the human face down into pixelated squares, as he explained to "Sunday Morning" in 2007: "It's a little bit like an architect picking up a brick. You stack up the bricks one way, you get a cathedral. You stack up the bricks another way and you get a gas station."
He began his portraits with a photograph, which he divided into squares: "Every square here will become four squares in the painting. There is no drawing on the canvas other than the grid. I never draw a nose. I never draw a lip."
In 1988 he suffered a serious spinal injury which left him partially paralyzed, but, fortunately still able to paint. "Thankfully, if I'm only going to be able to still do something that I used to do, I'm pretty lucky that it turned out to be painting," he said.
In terms of the content of his artwork, Close said, "What's changed is perhaps a slightly brighter palate, a more celebratory nature to the work. Because I was just so happy to be able to get back to work, and to find a way to work again."
In the original "Star Trek" series, "redshirts" referred to the security personnel and other, often nameless Enterprise crewmembers who seemingly always turn up dead from an alien encounter. (You do not want to wear a red uniform when going boldly where no one has gone before!) But Eddie Paskey (August 20, 1939-August 17, 2021) survived the redshirt jinx. With barely any acting experience, Paskey was hired to portray Lt. Leslie on the second "Star Trek" pilot, and eventually appeared (as Leslie, other anonymous redshirts, a sick bay assistant, or just a stand-in) in 62 episodes of the series – more than George Takei or Walter Koenig.
Curiously, in a season two episode, "Obsession," Lt. Leslie actually DID die, thanks to a red corpuscle-eating cloud, but Paskey turned up again later in that same episode, and in 20 more, with no real explanation as to why. (It was, after all, a science fiction show.) Paskey would later claim, in a 2004 online post, that the original script had a scene of Leslie being brought back to life, but it was never filmed.
As the 1960s series ended its run, Paskey dropped out of acting, but he maintained a "Star Trek" presence with appearances at conventions, and a turn as "Admiral Leslie" in a fan series, "Star Trek: New Voyages." Meanwhile, the term "redshirt" as a trope of expendables has lived on, called out in parodies, video games, and even the 2009 "Star Trek" feature film reboot.
Performing since age 12 at coffeehouses, clubs and folk festivals in her native Texas, Grammy-winning folk singer and songwriter Nanci Griffith (July 6, 1953-August 13, 2021) grew her sound from confessional folk singer to a country-folk storyteller in her 1986 album, "The Last of the True Believers," with such songs as "Love at the Five and Dime" (in which lovers slow-dance after hours at Woolworth's), "Lookin' for the Time (Workin' Girl)," and "More Than a Whisper." Her first major label album, "Lone Star State of Mind" (1987), featured "From a Distance" (which was later covered by Bette Midler), "Cold Hearts/Closed Minds" and "Trouble in the Fields," in addition to the title track.
Her songs ran the gamut from sentimental odes to love ("Gulf Coast Highway") and its missteps ("If Wishes Were Changes," "Outbound Plane"), to avenues of social commentary, as in "It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go" (which spoke to generational attitudes of racism in America and Northern Ireland) and "Trouble in the Fields" (about the economic hardships facing rural communities). "I wrote it because my family were farmers in West Texas during the Great Depression," Griffith told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. "It was written basically as a show of support for my generation of farmers."
Her 1993 album "Other Voices, Other Rooms," on which she sang with Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Arlo Guthrie and Guy Clark, won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Philanthropist James Hormel (January 1, 1933-August 13, 2021), the first openly-gay U.S. ambassador, was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1997 to become ambassador to Luxembourg. His nomination was blocked for two years by conservatives in the Senate (then-Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott likened homosexuals to alcoholics, kleptomaniacs and sex addicts), but during a congressional recess Hormel was appointed via executive privilege.
"The process was very long and strenuous, arduous, insulting, full of misleading statements, full of lies, full of deceit, full of antagonism," Hormel said during a 2012 book tour for his memoir, "Fit to Serve." He served from June 1999 through 2000.
A former dean of the University of Chicago Law School, Hormel (heir to the Hormel Foods fortune) married his college sweetheart, Alice McElroy Parker, and had five children before they divorced in 1965. He later moved to San Francisco, and at age 45 came out publicly as gay.
Hormel co-founded the Human Rights Campaign and helped fund many activities geared to arts, education and human rights, including a gay and lesbian center at the San Francisco Public Library; the National AIDS Memorial Grove; the American Foundation for AIDS Research; and the American Conservatory Theater.
In 2014 Hormel married Michael P.N. Araque. Two years later, after the Supreme Court had made same-sex marriage legal throughout the U.S., he told the San Francisco Chronicle, "There's still a substantial cadre that would be willing to overturn the marriage-equality ruling. Which is totally bizarre to me. There are still people who are not willing to accept that being gay is not a choice. It's not a choice. You don't choose to be tortured by society."
Japanese publisher Maki Kaji (October 8, 1951-August 10, 2021) turned a numbers game into one of the world's most popular logic puzzles. In the mid-1980s, Kaji, founder of Japan's first puzzle magazine, Nikoli, popularized sudoku, a form of numbers game that first appeared in the 19th century, in which a grid of boxes must be filled with digits one through nine.
The game took off when it was published in newspapers overseas – and because Kaji neglected to pursue a trademark in the United States, sales of sudoku publications by others generated no royalties for him.
In 2007, the "godfather of sudoku" told The New York Times he believed that was a brilliant mistake, allowing the game to flourish: "This openness is more in keeping with Nikoli's open culture. We're prolific because we do it for the love of games, not for the money."
The daughter of director Alfred Hitchcock, actress Pat Hitchcock (July 7, 1928-August 9, 2021) made several appearances in her father's films and TV shows, most notably in "Strangers on a Train" and "Psycho" (as a colleague of embezzling bank employee Janet Leigh). She also acted on stage in London and New York, including as the title character in "Violet."
She mostly retired from acting to raise a family, but did make a few appearances in the '70s, including the TV films "Ladies of the Corridor" and "Six Characters in Search of an Author." She also co-wrote, with Laurent Bouzereau, "Alma Hitchcock: The Woman Behind the Man," a biography of her mother.
Being the only child of the Master of Suspense, Hitchcock had a unique perspective on her father's proclivities. "My parents were ordinary people," she told The Guardian in 1999. "I know a lot of people insist that my father must have had a dark imagination. Well, he did not. He was a brilliant filmmaker and he knew how to tell a story, that's all."
He was also not immune to practical jokes, as when, during the filming of "Strangers on a Train," he bet his daughter (who was afraid of heights) $100 that she wouldn't dare ride a Ferris wheel, and then had the wheel turned off once she'd gotten to the top. "The only sadism involved was that I never got the $100," Pat said.
Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas
Saxophonist Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas (February 9, 1951-August 7, 2021) was a founding member of the band Kool & the Gang. A flutist and percussionist as well, he also served as the emcee of the band's shows.
Thomas was one of seven friends who, as teenagers in Jersey City, N.J. in 1967, created the group's entrancing blend of jazz, soul and funk. Originally the Jazziacs, the band released their first album in 1969, featuring the singles "Kool and the Gang" and "Let The Music Take Your Mind."
The group had 11 Top 10 hit singles, including "Jungle Boogie," "Celebration," "Ladies' Night," "Too Hot," "Get Down On It," "Johanna," "Cherish," "Fresh" and "Stone Love."
They would release 30 studio and live albums, selling 70 million albums worldwide. They earned three Grammy nominations, and shared the Album of the Year Award in 1978 for their contribution to the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack ("Open Sesame").
Comedian Trevor Moore (April 4, 1980-August 6, 2021) co-founded the sketch comedy troupe The Whitest Kids U' Know, whose unbridled TV series (which ran on Fuse and IFC from 2007-2011) was bloody, vulgar, violent, and relentlessly inventive.
Moore and his cohorts (most of whom were graduates from New York's School of Visual Arts) began performing together at SVA and at comedy clubs before winning an award at the Aspen Comedy Festival. Their TV show, filled with blackout bits and songs (and often run uncensored), was more than willing to tackle sex, violence, religion (the Devil turns "Hell's Kitchen" into a five-star restaurant, ticking off God), and other taboo subjects. Even sainted President Lincoln was not immune; Abe's boorish behavior in his box at Ford's Theatre inspires an audience member (Moore) to take matters into his own hands.
Moore performed many rap and rock numbers, include songs about Hitler, dinosaurs, religious head coverings, and old folks' homes (where he could score Oxycodone and Percodan).
After "WKUK" ended, Moore co-created the Disney XD series, "Walk the Prank," and released a musical album, "Drunk Texts to Myself." On Comedy Central he starred in the series "The Trevor Moore Show," and the musical special "High in Church." He also wrote and co-directed the film "Miss March."
Raised in rural Virginia, the child of Christian rock singers Mickey and Becki Moore, Trevor told the Hollywood Reporter in 2015 that traveling around the country (he would sell merchandise when his parents went on tour) bolstered his comic skills: "How I got into comedy was from that sort of being in a different city every night," he said. "If the pastor of the church, or people who were throwing the festival, had kids my age, then you try to become quick friends for a day – and then you'll never see them again." He had his own public access comedy show at age 16, which was picked up by the Pax cable channel – and then cancelled.
Moore told New York Magazine in 2015 that growing up without cable he was forced to be creative out of "sheer mind-numbing boredom" – and as an adult he would return to the topics that surrounded him as a child in rural Virginia, including religion and Civil War history. "I grew up in an area full of Civil War battlefields. I would go out with my grandfather with metal detectors and find cannonballs, sword handles, stuff like that. History was always present."
Which might explain his 2011 film, "The Civil War on Drugs," in which stoners believe the War Between the States is really about the legalization of marijuana.
In the summer of 1969, at a club in Houston called The Catacombs, guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard were auditioning bass players, when Dusty Hill (May 19, 1949-July 27/28, 2021) strolled up. Beard recalled for "Sunday Morning" in 2019 that Hill "strapped on the guitar, and I think we wound up playing one song for about three hours straight!"
The hard-driving bluesy country rock band ZZ Top built its following by touring hard – 300 nights a year in the early days, often with elaborate stage shows involving Texas longhorn steers, rattlesnakes and buzzards, not to mention Hill and Gibbons' trademark beards. (Beard himself was beardless.)
What blew up ZZ Top into A-List Rock and Roll Hall of Famers was when, in the 1980s, their music videos went into heavy rotation on MTV, featuring a hot rod, a trio of women, and a string of catchy tunes, including "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Sharp Dressed Man," "Legs," and "Sleeping Bag."
Other ZZ Top hits included "La Grange," "Tush," "Tube Snake Boogie," "Rough Boy," "Stages," "Velcro Fly," "Doubleback," "My Head's in Mississippi," "Give It Up," "Pincushion," "What's Up With That," and "Fearless Boogie." Their 1983 album "Eliminator" is rated 10x Platinum – more than 10 million copies sold.
After half a century, ZZ Top was still working hard to make it all look so easy – and Hill was not looking forward to stopping any time soon. "I've told people, I said, 'Look, if I retired after a few months I would be at your house singing you a song or something!'" he told correspondent Jim Axelrod. "I have to perform somewhere!"
The king of the TV informercial, inventor and salesman Ron Popeil (May 3, 1935-July 28, 2021) got his start selling his father's creation, the "Chop-o-Matic," to a captive audience: lunch counter customers in a Chicago Woolworth store. But he soon expanded his audience to TV, personally demonstrating his expanding repertoire of household gadgets that people didn't realize they absolutely needed: A smokeless ashtray; the Miracle Broom mini-vacuum ("It's so tough, it eats up nails and tacks"); and most famously, his Popeil's Pocket Fisherman – rod, reel and tackle that could slip into your pocket, ready for any opportunity to go fishing.
"I have the product that solves the problem," he'd say, as he hawked inventions from his own company, Ronco. There was the Inside-The-Shell Egg Scrambler; the Electric Food Dehydrator; Mr. Microphone (which would transmit your dulcet tones to a nearby FM radio); the Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ; and "hair in a can," a spray-on application to cover bald spots.
His commercials made Popeil an informercial superstar. "Whether it's 3:00 in the morning or noontime on a Sunday afternoon, I will be there with one of my inventions," Popeil told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Bill Geist in 2000.
Robert Parris Moses
Civil rights activist Robert Parris Moses (January 23, 1935-July 25, 2021) was shot at and endured beatings and jail while leading Black voter registration drives in the American South during the 1960s. As the Mississippi field director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), he worked to dismantle segregation and was central to the 1964 "Freedom Summer," in which hundreds of students went to the South to register voters.
"I was taught about the denial of the right to vote behind the Iron Curtain in Europe," Moses once said. "I never knew that there was (the) denial of the right to vote behind a Cotton Curtain here in the United States."
Moses' family had moved north during the Great Migration. Born in Harlem, he became a teacher in New York City when, in 1960, he was inspired by the sit-in movement. He traveled to the Deep South, seeking out the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta. He soon turned his attention to SNCC. He tried to register Black people to vote in Mississippi's rural Amite County where he was beaten and arrested. When he tried to file charges against a White assailant, an all-White jury acquitted the man. A judge provided protection to Moses to the county line so he could leave.
In 1963, he and two other activists were driving in Greenwood, Miss., when someone opened fire on them. In a statement released by SNCC, Moses described how bullets whizzed around them, and how he took the wheel when one of his companions was struck. "We all were within inches of being killed," he said.
Disillusioned with White liberal reaction to the civil rights movement, Moses soon began taking part in demonstrations against the Vietnam War. He worked as a teacher in Tanzania, Africa, returned to Harvard to earn a doctorate in philosophy, and taught high school math in Cambridge, Mass. He later taught math in Jackson, Miss., while commuting back-and-forth to Massachusetts on the weekends.
In 1982, thanks to a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Moses started his "second chapter in civil rights work" by founding the Algebra Project, a curriculum he developed to help struggling students in disadvantaged schools succeed in math. It would grow to serve 10,000 students yearly in nearly 30 cities nationwide.
With regard to the Algebra Project, Moses told The New York Times in 2001, "The legacy that's important is the organizing, the passing on."
In the 1940s, to fill vital defense plant jobs left open when many men went off to war, women stepped up, thanks in part to a U.S. government recruitment program featuring a woman in a polka-dotted bandana rolling up her sleeve: "Rosie the Riveter." Some six million women joined the workforce, including Phyllis Gould (1921-July 20, 2021), a welder building warships at the Kaiser-Richmond Shipyards, near San Francisco. She not only followed her husband into the welding trade, she was earning equal pay: $0.90 an hour.
After the war, she became an interior decorator, was twice-divorced, had five children and moved around, before settling in Fairfax, Calif. She was "kind of like a hippie, you know, where the wind blows," her sister told The Associated Press.
But because women defense workers received little notice or appreciation for their contributions after the war, Gould fought tenaciously to honor them, writing letter after letter to politicians. She helped push for the creation of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, established in 2000.
"Something has to be done so there's something tangible after we're gone," she told the Marin Independent Journal in 2019. "There were millions of us, but there's nothing that says we were there."
She and other "Rosies" met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in 2014, pushing for the observance of National Rosie the Riveter Day. She also helped in the design of a Congressional Gold Medal, to be issued next year in honor of the women who helped win the war.
"I know they're busy with really important stuff, but this is important to us," Gould said. "And time is running out."
A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist for Reuters, Danish Siddiqui (May 19, 1983-July 17, 2021) was killed as he chronicled fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban amid the continuing withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops.
A native of New Delhi, and a defense correspondent for an Indian TV network, Siddiqui decided to change careers in 2010, beginning an internship with Reuters. A self-taught photographer, Siddiqui told Forbes India in 2018 that he had been frustrated that television news focused only on big stories, not smaller features from the interior of India.
Siddiqui was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 2018 for their coverage of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. He has captured searing images of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, unrest in India, and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
"While I enjoy covering news stories – from business to politics to sports – what I enjoy most is capturing the human face of a breaking story,'' Siddiqui wrote in a profile on Reuters' website. "I really like covering issues that affect people as the result of different kind of conflicts."
Click here to view a gallery of some of Siddiqui's remarkable images.
Esther Bejarano (December 15, 1924-July 10, 2021), a survivor of Auschwitz, used the power of music to fight antisemitism and racism in post-war Germany.
She was born in French-occupied Saarlouis in 1924; her family later moved to Saarbruecken, which was returned to Germany in 1935. When the Nazis came to power, Bejarano's parents and sister Ruth were deported and killed; Bejarano had to perform forced labor before being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943. There, she volunteered to become a member of the girls' orchestra, playing the accordion every time trains full of Jews from across Europe arrived.
"We played with tears in our eyes," she recalled in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press. "The new arrivals came in waving and applauding us, but we knew they would be taken directly to the gas chambers."
Bejarano would say later that music helped keep her alive in the notorious German Nazi death camp in occupied Poland, and during the years after the Holocaust.
In a memoir, Bejarano recalled her rescue by U.S. troops, who gave her an accordion, which she played the day American soldiers and concentration camp survivors danced around a burning portrait of Adolf Hitler to celebrate the Allied victory over the Nazis.
Bejarano emigrated to Israel after the war and married Nissim Bejarano. The couple had two children before returning to Germany in 1960. After once again encountering open antisemitism, Bejarano decided to become politically active, co-founding the Auschwitz Committee in 1986 to give survivors a platform for their stories.
She teamed up with her children to play Yiddish melodies and Jewish resistance songs in a Hamburg-based band they named Coincidence, and also with hip-hop group Microphone Mafia to spread an anti-racism message to German youth.
"We all love music and share a common goal: We're fighting against racism and discrimination," she told the AP of her collaborations across cultures and generations.
Bejarano received numerous awards, including Germany's Order of Merit, for her activism against what she called the "old and new Nazis," quoting fellow Holocaust survivor Primo Levi's warning that "it happened, therefore it can happen again."
While addressing young people in Germany and beyond, Bejarano would say, "You are not guilty of what happened back then. But you become guilty if you refuse to listen to what happened."