Notable deaths in 2018: Aretha Franklin, Anthony Bourdain, Stan Lee and June Whitfield among those we said goodbye to

We said goodbye to some beloved figures in the entertainment world this year

Roisin O'Connor
Monday 31 December 2018 13:47
Notable deaths in 2018

As another year ends, most are looking forward to what will, and might, take place in 2019. However it’s also a good time for reflection, and remember the people we lost over the past 12 months. There were several notable deaths in the entertainment world in 2018, from celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain to "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin, jazz singer Nancy Wilson, Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, and actor Dame June Whitfield.


Several huge figures in music passed away at the beginning of 2017, including Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan, The Fall’s Mark E Smith, and jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela.

Other notable deaths include fantasy author Ursula K Le Guin, Motorhead guitarist Eddie Clarke, Kinks bassist Jim Rodford, cult TV star Peter Wyngarde, Home and Away actress Jessica Falkholt, and French singer France Gall.


Fans were shocked to hear of the death of renowned film composer Johann Johannsson in February. House of Cards actor Reg E Cathey, Frasier’s John Mahoney and director Lewis Gilbert, behind films such as Educating Rita, Alfie, and three James Bond films, died in the same month.

We also said goodbye to author Penny Vincenzi, The Real Thing singer Eddy Amoo, actor Emma Chambers (The Vicar of Dibley, Notting Hill), Barbara Ann Alston, and Hollywood producer Jill Messick.


Beloved English comedian Ken Dodd, described as the “last great music hall entertainer”, died aged 90 in March 2019, after a career that lasted for over 60 years. Eurovision Song Contest host Katie Boyle, Bullseye host Jim Bowen, French actor Stephane Audran, Heartbeat star Bill Maynard, South Korean actor Ko Min-ki and US rapper Craig Mack, best known for the hit “Flava in Your Ear”, also passed away.


The music world was rocked by the death of Swedish DJ Avicii, who died aged 28 after suffering from poor mental health for several years. We also said goodbye to Austin Powers actor Verne Troyer, Twin Peaks actor Pamela Gidley, Overtones member Timmy Matley, W1A actor Alex Beckett, artist Gillian Ayres, and Czech-born film director Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).


Scott Hutchison, frontman of the Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit, died in May, prompting a global outpouring of tributes from fans, friends and fellow artists. Philip Roth, renowned author of American Pastroal, Portnoy’s Complaint and other novels, died in May aged 85.

Superman actor Margot Kidder, who was also an outspoken political and environmental activist, died aged 69. Irish playright Tom Murphy also passed away, as did Tom Wolfe (The Right Stuff, Bonfire of the Vanities), actor Jerry Maren, and Clint Walker.

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Fans of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain were devastated at the news of his death in June: former US president Barack Obama was among those paying tribute. EastEnders actor Leslie Grantham, fashion designer Kate Spade, “Bond Girl” Eunice Gayson, former Love Island contestant Sophie Gradon, former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Danny Kirwan, Irish actor Derrick O’Connor, artist Malcolm Morley, Twin Town actor Helen Griffin, and Jackson family patriarch Joe Jackson also passed away.


Notable deaths in July included Cats choreographer Gillian Lynne, The Archers actor Carolyn Jones, Stig of the Dump author Clive King, playwright Hugh Whitemore, Fifties icon Tab Hunter and musician Richard Swift.


We waved goodbye to a beloved and familiar face of children’s TV when Barry Chuckle, one half of the comedy duo the Chuckle Brothers, died aged 73. That same month saw the death of the “Queen of Soul”, Aretha Franklin, and novelist VS Naipaul.

Other notable deaths included Ed King, guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd, jazz singer Morgana King, US playwright Neil Simon, LazyTown actor Stefan Karl Stefansson, Broadway star Carole Shelly, actor Barbara Harris, and songwriter Tony Hiller.


Seventies film heartthrob Burt Reynolds, who starred in films such as Smokey and the Bandit, Hooper, The Longest Yard, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, died in September this year aged 82.

US rapper Mac Miller died, aged 26, shortly after the release of his critically acclaimed album Swimming, which is currently up for Best Rap Album at the 61st annual Grammy Awards.

Other notable deaths include Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz, Carry on actor Liz Fraser, actors Jacqueline Pearce and Dudley Sutton, and It’ll Be Alright on the Night host Denis Norden.


French music icon Charles Aznavour passed away in October, as did a number of other prolific industry figures, such as Jefferson Airplane co-founder Marty Balin, Beatles sound engineer Geoff Emerick, All That Remains guitarist Oli Herbert, and rapper Young Greatness.

Steptoe and Son writer Ray Galton, the Walking Deads Scott Wilson, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factor actor Diana Sowle, and the beloved Rainbow presenter Geoffrey Hayes also passed away.


Marvel comics legend Stan Lee bowed out in November this year, aged 95. He had remained a public figurehead of Marvel since his retirement in the Nineties, and frequently made cameos in films based on his characters.

Bernardo Bertolucci, the Italian director behind films such as Last Tango in Paris, The Last Emperor and Stealing Beauty, died aged 77. Other notable deaths that month were screenwriter William Goldman, US magician and actor Ricky Jay, boyband member Devin Lima, ELO cellist Hugh McDowell, Vicar of Dibley star John Bluthal, Beverly Sisters’ Babs Beverley, and Spongebob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg.


As the year drew to a close, we waved goodbye to the brilliant, much-loved Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley, and to jazz star Nancy Wilson.

Actor and director Penny Marshall also passed away, as did TV art historian Sister Wendy Beckett, Israeli author Amos Oz, actors Philip Bosco and Donald Moffat, and Absolutely Fabulous star Dame June Whitfield.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, you can contact Mind in the UK on 0300 123 3393 or text 86463, or visit their website

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