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Celebrity deaths in 2023: The musicians, actors and comedians we lost this year

The world lost a number of legendary artists over the past 12 months

Tom Murray,Inga Parkel,Kevin E G Perry
Thursday 28 December 2023 22:55 GMT
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Singer Lisa Marie Presley dies at the age of 54

From television and movie stars to musicians, directors and authors, the world has had to say a final farewell to a number of high-profile figures this year.

The early months of 2023 were marked by the loss of legendary rock guitarist Jeff Beck and the only daughter of Elvis Presley, Lisa Marie Presley. Then came the tragic deaths of Euphoria’s Angus Cloud, Friends star Matthew Perry and the former Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan in the later months.

Here are some of those we mourned over the past 12 months.

JANUARY

Gangsta Boo

The pioneering rapper and former member of Memphis hip-hop group Three 6 Mafia died on New Year’s Day aged 43. Her cause of death was not disclosed.

Fred White

The former drummer of Earth, Wind & Fire died aged 67, his family announced on 2 January. Lenny Kravitz remembered the musician as a “true king”.

Earl Boen

The veteran character actor, best known for his role as criminal psychologist Dr Peter Silberman in The Terminator franchise, died on 5 January in Hawaii. He was 81.

Jeff Beck

The legendary rock guitarist, who played with the Yardbirds and fronted The Jeff Beck Group, died on 10 January at the age of 78 after “suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis”.

Jeff Beck (PA Archive)

The English musician, whose fingers and thumbs were famously insured for £7m, was an eight-time Grammy winner.

Beck had recently completed a tour supporting 18, his album with actor and musician Johnny Depp.

Lisa Marie Presley

The only daughter of Elvis Presley died aged 54 on 12 January, just days after attending the Golden Globe Awards in support of Baz Luhrmann’s biopic about her father, Elvis.

Presley was rushed to hospital after suffering a reported cardiac arrest, though, her representatives refused to comment on her cause of death.

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Gina Lollobrigida

The Italian film star, who was a high-profile figure in cinema throughout the 1950s and 1960s, died on 16 January in Rome aged 95.

She was often described as “the most beautiful woman in the world” and, before her death, was considered to be one of the last remaining stars from the Golden Age of cinema.

David Crosby

The founding member of the hugely popular Sixties groups, the Byrds and Crosby, as well as Crosby, Stills & Nash died at the age of 81 “after a long illness” on 19 January.

Lisa Loring

(Getty Images)

Loring, who played Wednesday Addams in the iconic TV adaptation of The Addams Family, died of complications from a stroke caused by high blood pressure on 28 January. She was 64.

The actor landed the role of the pigtail-wearing, pale, death-obsessed character Wednesday in ABC’s sitcom when she was just six years old in 1964. She played the character for two years.

Julian Sands

The prolific British actor, who starred opposite Helena Bonham Carter in the 1985 romance thriller A Room With a View, was confirmed dead after his remains were discovered in late June more than five months after he failed to return from a hike in California’s Mount Baldy region on 13 January. He was 65.

FEBRUARY

Burt Bacharach

The composer of classic pop songs including “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Walk On By” died on 8 February in Los Angeles at the age of 94.

Considered one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, Bacharach wrote hits for artists including Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, TomJones and the Carpenters.

Raquel Welch

The Hollywood icon, who appeared in films including Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years BC, died on 15 February following a “brief illness”. She was 82.

Richard Belzer

Actor Richard Belzer attends the grand opening of the Apple Store on the Upper West Side on November 14, 2009 in New York City. (Getty Images)

The long-time star of NBC’s Law & Order franchise died on 19 February aged 78. According to the actor and veteran comedian’s friend, writer Bill Scheft, Belzer passed away at his home in Bozouls in southwest France.

“He had lots of health issues, and his last words were, ‘F*** you, motherf***er,’” Scheft told The Hollywood Reporter.

Belzer played the role of John Munch for 23 years on Homicide: Life on the Streets and Law & Order, beginning in 1993. He eventually retired from acting in 2016 at 71.

MARCH

Steve Mackey

The Pulp bassist died in hospital in Sheffield on 2 March after several months of illness. He was 56.

As well as his acclaimed career with one of the defining bands of the Britpop era, Mackey was also a record producer who worked with the likes of M.I.A., Florence + the Machine, Arcade Fire and Palma Violets.

Tom Sizemore

The actor, best known for his appearance in Saving Private Ryan, died in his sleep in Burbank, California, on 3 March at the age of 61. He had been in a coma in an intensive care unit since suffering a brain aneurysm in February at his home in Los Angeles.

Sizemore became a star with acclaimed appearances in Natural Born Killers and the cult-classic crime thriller Heat. He went on to earn a reputation for playing tough-guy characters in war and action films through the 1990s and 2000s.

Lance Reddick

Lance Reddick (HBO)

The character actor known for his intense performances in HBO’s hit series The Wire and the John Wick action films, died suddenly on 17 March from natural causes at his home in Studio City, Los Angeles. He was 60.

Paul O’Grady

The TV presenter and comedian died on 28 March after suffering cardiac arrhythmia at the age of 67.

Also known for his drag queen persona Lily Savage, O’Grady’s long career on television saw him host The Paul O’Grady Show, Blind Date and Blankety Blank, as well as ITV’s multi-award-winning For The Love Of Dogs. He also hosted the ITV celebrity game show, Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up.

Ryuichi Sakamoto

The eclectic Japanese composer, who was an early leader in electronic pop music, died on 28 March at the age of 71.

Sakamoto founded the Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1978 with Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi, and soon emerged as Japan’s top-selling band. He later composed the scores for films including The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky and The Revenant.

APRIL

Paul Cattermole

Paul Cattermole appearing on ‘Loose Women’ in 2018 (itv)

The S Club 7 singer died at home on 6 April in Dorset from heart issues at the age of 47. Cattermole was just 21 when he joined S Club 7 in 1998, and the following year the pop group reached No 1 with their debut single “Bring It All Back”.

By the time the group disbanded in 2003, they had recorded four studio records and sold more than 10 million albums worldwide.

Michael Lerner

The Oscar-nominated actor, best known for his roles in films such as Godzilla and Elf, died on 8 April at the age of 81.

Lerner’s death was announced by his nephew, The Goldbergs star Sam Lerner. “It’s hard to put into words how brilliant my uncle Michael was, and how influential he was to me,” Sam wrote on Instagram.

“His stories always inspired me and made me fall in love with acting. He was the coolest, most confident, talented guy, and the fact that he was my blood will always make me feel special.”

Len Goodman

The much-loved entertainer and ballroom dancer, who shared his expertise and heart as a head judge on Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing with the Stars, died on 22 April. He was 78. He reportedly died after his prostate cancer spread to his bones.

Due to his Strictly role, Goodman became a TV personality who appeared on shows including Who Do You Think You Are?, Football Focus and a 2021 episode of Hollyoaks, in which he made a surprise cameo as a dance teacher.

Barry Humphries

Barry Humphries (ITV)

The Australian comedian died in hospital in Sydney on 22 April at the age of 89.

Best known for his comedy characters, including Sir Les Patterson and Dame Edna Everage. The latter, arguably his best-known character, was instantly identifiable by her purple hair and extravagant glasses and first appeared in the Fifties when Humphries was living in Australia.

Harry Belafonte

The pioneering artist died at home in Manhattan on 25 April, aged 96. A singer, actor and activist, he was known for songs such as “Banana Boat” (1956) and “Jump in the Line” (1961).

Belafonte was also revered as a committed activist who played a significant role in the American civil rights movement. He was a close confidant of Martin Luther King and helped to organise the March on Washington in 1963.

Mark Sheehan

The Script co-founder and guitarist died on 14 April after a brief illness aged 46.

Sheehan and lead vocalist Danny O’Donoghue were childhood best friends while growing up in Dublin, and they formed the rock band in 2001 with the addition of drummer Glen Power. They released their eponymous debut album in August 2008, which featured the hit singles “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” and “Breakeven”.

Jerry Springer

Jerry Springer, the politican-turned-television-presenter whose lurid chat show became by a decades-long byword for exploitative, trashy television, died at home in Chicago on 27 April, aged 79.

For 27 years, The Jerry Springer Show featured a parade of outrageous guests who would argue or even brawl as a studio audience chanted encouragement.

MAY

Andy Rourke

Morrissey: Andy Rourke will never die as long as his music is heard (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Archive)

Rourke, the bassist for legendary indie band The Smiths, died on 19 May following a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer. He was 59.

“Andy will be remembered as a kind and beautiful soul by those who knew him and as a supremely gifted musician by music fans,” his former bandmate The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr wrote on X.

Martin Amis

The “literary agitator” behind acclaimed novels including London Fields, Money and The Information died on 19 May at home in Florida aged 73.

Born in Oxford, the son of celebrated author Kingsley Amis and Hilary Bardwell, he was the author of 15 novels, two story collections and seven non-fiction works that included his memoir Experience, released in 2000. The Independent’s Martin Chilton remembered the author as “the Mick Jagger of the literary world”.

Ray Stevenson

The Irish actor, best known for starring in films including King Arthur, Punisher: War Zone and Marvel’s Thor films, died on 21 May aged 58.

He had been on set in Italy filming for a new movie when he was rushed to hospital. His death came days before his 59th birthday.

Stevenson’s final on-screen role included an appearance in the 2022 Oscar-nominated Tollywood action film RRR, as well as Liam Neeson’s action-thriller Memory. He also posthumously starred in the newest Star Wars spin-off series Ahsoka.

Tina Turner

Tina Turner (AP1984)

The queen of rock n’ roll died at her home in Kusnacht, Switzerland, on 24 May at the age of 83.

Born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee (her hometown would inspire her 1973 song “Nutbush City Limits”) in 1939, Turner became one of the bestselling recording artists of all time in a career spanning more than 60 years.

Her solo works include 10 studio albums, two live albums, two soundtracks and five compilations, which together have sold more than 100 million records.

JUNE

Treat Williams

The actor, best known for his roles in the four-season drama Everwood and 1979 musical comedy Hair, was killed following a motorcycle accident in Vermont on 12 June. He was 71.

Treat was remembered by his agent, Barry McPherson, as “an actor’s actor”. “Filmmakers loved him. He’s been the heart of Hollywood since the late 1970s,” McPherson said in a statement. “He was really proud of his performance this year. He’s been so happy with the work that I got him. He’s had a balanced career.”

Cormac McCarthy

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author died on 13 June at home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the age of 89.

McCarthy won the Pulitzer for his 2006 novel, The Road, a post-apocalyptic tale that follows a father and son embarking on a gruelling tale of survival. His other celebrated works include No Country For Old Men, Blood Meridian and All The Pretty Horses.

Glenda Jackson

Glenda Jackson pictured shortly after winning the Best Actress Oscar for ‘Women in Love' (Getty Images)

The double Oscar-winning actor and former Labour MP died on 15 June, aged 87, after a brief illness.

The screen star and former Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1970, for her performance as Gudrun Brangwen in Ken Russell’s adaptation of the DH Lawrence novel Women in Love.

Before her death, Jackson had completed filming The Great Escape in which she co-starred with Michael Caine.

Alan Arkin

The actor who won an Oscar for his role in Little Miss Sunshine died due to heart problems on 29 June at his home in San Marcos, California. He was 89.

During his long career, Arkin worked with directors such as Tim Burton in fantasy romance Edward Scissorhands, Ben Affleck in historical drama Argo and MikeNichols in satirical black comedy Catch-22. He received Academy Award nominations for his performances in The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and Argo.

JULY

Jane Birkin

The British actor, singer and fashion icon was found dead on 16 July, 16 years after she was diagnosed with cancer and two years after she suffered a stroke. She was 76.

Birkin was a prolific film actor, starring in mostly French cinema. She gained recognition for her long relationship with poet Serge Gainsbourg after having moved to France in the late 1960s.

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett (Getty Images)

Bennett, one of America’s last great crooners, died on 21 July at the age of 96.

The legendary “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” singer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016. Due to the illness, he retired from performing in August 2021. His final performance came with two sold-out shows alongside Lady Gaga at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. At his final concert, Bennett performed a 30-minute set of songs, including “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Steppin’ Out with My Baby”.

Sinead O’Connor

The Irish singer, who found fame with her 1990 rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”, and who fervently challenged the Catholic church, died on 26 July. She was 56.

O’Connor’s sudden death came a year after her 17-year-old son Shane died after escaping hospital while on suicide watch.

Throughout her career, O’Connor was known for her outspoken views on politics, religion and women’s rights. In 1992, during an appearance on Saturday Night Live, the singer-songwriter made headlines when she held a photo of Pop John Paul II to the camera and ripped it to pieces in protest of sexual abuse within the Church.

“Everyone wants a pop star, see? But I am a protest singer. I just had stuff to get off my chest. I had no desire for fame,” she wrote in her 2021 memoir Rememberings.

Paul Reubens

The American actor and comedian, known for his famous children’s character Pee-wee Herman, died on 30 July after living with cancer for years. He was 70.

In 1982 Reubens launched The Pee-wee Herman Show based on a character he had been developing for years. The stage show was a tremendous success and went on to spawn a 1985 film directed by Tim Burton, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

Angus Cloud

Angus Cloud (Getty Images)

The rising star, who portrayed fan-favourite Fezco on HBO’s gritty teen drama Euphoria, died on 31 July aged 25.

Cloud was remembered by his co-star Zendaya as an “infinite beauty”. “I’m so grateful I got the chance to know him in this life, to call him a brother, to see his warm kind eyes and bright smile, or hear his infectious cackle of a laugh (I’m smiling now just thinking of it),” she wrote on Instagram.

AUGUST

Sir Michael Parkinson

The veteran chat show host died on 16 August aged 88. His death, which followed an impressive career that saw him interview stars including Orson Welles, John Wayne, Sir Michael Caine, Madonna, John Lennon and Muhammed Ali, was due to “frailty of old age”.

Ron Cephas-Jones

The veteran stage actor, who later became best known for playing the father of Sterling K Brown’s character in NBC’s critically acclaimed This Is Us, died on 19 August. He was 66.

Cephas-Jones – who is the father of original Broadway Hamilton cast member Jasmine Cephas-Jones – died “due to a long-standing pulmonary issue”, his manager, Dan Spilo, announced in an emailed statement.

Bob Barker

TV-Barker-Tribute (AP2007)

The long-time Price is Right host died on 26 August of natural causes. He was 99.

In 2007, Barker retired after hosting the hit CBS game show since 1972.

During his decades-long career, he won 19 Daytime Emmy Awards, received an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1999 and was inducted into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame in 2004

SEPTEMBER

Jimmy Buffet

The country pop singer-songwriter, best known for his 1977 hit “Margaritaville”, died “peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs”, a statement posted to his website and social media channels said. He was 76.

Buffet was catapulted to fame with “Margaritaville”, which was an homage to beach life.

Billy Miller

The former Young and Restless and General Hospital actor died by suicide on 15 September in Austin, Texas. He was 43.

His death, which came two days before his 44th birthday, was confirmed by his manager, who noted that Miller was “struggling with manic depression when he died”.

David McCallum

McCallum, the last remaining original cast member of NCIS cast and star of the hit Sixties spy drama The Man From UNCLE, died on 25 September at the age of 90.

Having joined the cast of the long-running crime show in 2003, the Irish actor devoted himself to the study of forensics to play his quirky character Dr Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard. In a 2006 interview, producer Donald P Bellisario said that McCallum’s knowledge had become so vast that he was considering making him a technical adviser on the show.

Sir Michael Gambon

Sir Michael Gambon has died aged 82 (Ian West/PA) (PA Archive)

The legendary star of stage and screen, known for playing writers, wizards, and everything in between, died on 27 September aged 82.

Over a stellar six-decade career, Gambon became a household name starring in the BBC series The Singing Detective but also played crime kingpin Eddie Temple in Noughties thriller, Layer Cake.

To younger audiences, however, he will be remembered as Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films. He took over the role in 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban two years after the death of Richard Harris.

OCTOBER

Rudolph Isley

The co-founding member of the R&B trio, The Isley Brothers, died on 11 October. He was 84.

Rudolph was the second eldest of the three-brother vocal harmony group, which included Ronald and O’Kelly Isley. Originally formed in 1954 with their fourth brother Vernon when they were just teenagers, they temporarily disbanded after Vernon was fatally struck by a car at age 13.

They officially re-grouped in 1957 during the beginning years of rock n’ roll, and they spent their career navigating shifting musical forms, all while building a successful repertoire.

Phyllis Coates

George Reeves and Phyllis Coates (Getty Images)

Coates, the first actor to portray Lois Lane on television, died on 11 October at age 96.

She featured as Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane in the 1951 film Superman and the Mole Men, before later reprising the role opposite George Reeves in the first season of the black-and-white Adventures of Superman series, which ran from 1952 to 1958.

Suzanne Somers

The sitcom star, best known for playing Chrissy Snow on Three’s Company, died on 15 October, the day before her 77th birthday.

“She survived an aggressive form of breast cancer for over 23 years. Suzanne was surrounded by her loving husband Alan, her son Bruce, and her immediate family,” Somer’s long-time publicist, R Couri Hay, said in a statement.

Haydn Gwynne

Gwynne, known for her portrayals of royal family members in both The Windsors and The Crown, died on 20 October aged 66. Her death came after a recent cancer diagnosis. In September, the actor was forced to pull out of the West End run of Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends, citing “sudden personal circumstances”.

Many will remember Gwynne best for her work on the stage, particularly while in the Billy Elliot West End and Broadway musical.

Richard Roundtree

The American actor best known for his roles in the Shaft film franchise passed away following a brief struggle with pancreatic cancer on 25 October. He was 81.

“Richard’s work and career served as a turning point for African American leading men in film,” his manager, Patrick McMinn, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Matthew Perry

Matthew Perry, 54, died at his home in LA due to the ‘acute effects of ketamine' (REUTERS)

The actor, who rose to fame with his portrayal of sarcastic jokester Chandler Bing on the hit sitcom Friends, died on 28 October aged 54. His cause death of was listed as “acute effects of ketamine”.

Following Perry’s sudden death, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer and Lisa Kudrow all shared personal memories of their time with their late Friends co-star.

NOVEMBER

Evan Ellingson

The actor, who appeared on screen in several roles as a child and teenager, died on 5 November aged 35.

Ellingson was best known for starring in the 2009 film My Sister’s Keeper, adapted from the Jodi Picoult novel of the same name.

Jean Knight

The “Mr Big Stuff” singer passed away of natural causes on 22 November. She was 80.

Knight was a Grammy-nominated R&B artist from New Orleans. She was also behind the 1972 hit “Do Me”, which was featured on the soundtrack of the popular 2007 comedy Superbad.

Frances Sternhagen

The well-known Broadway star, who was also famous for playing Charlotte’s mother-in-law Bunny MacDougal on Sex and the City, died on 27 November. She was 93.

Shane MacGowan

Shane MacGowan (PA)

The irrepressible Pogues frontman MacGowan, known for songs including “Fairytale of New York” and “A Pair of Brown Eyes”, died from pneumonia on 30 November, aged 65.

His funeral in Nenagh, Tipperary, was attended by thousands of mourners, including close family and friends such as Hollywood actor Johnny Depp, and musicians Nick Cave, Bono and Sir Bob Geldof.

DECEMBER

Norman Lear

The Emmy-winning screenwriter and pioneering television producer behind more than 100 shows died on 5 December. He was 101.

Well-known as a leading TV industry figure, Lear was responsible for hit sitcoms such as All in the Family and One Day at a Time.

Benjamin Zephaniah

The pioneering British writer and poet, who used humour and wit to address political injustices, died on 7 December aged 65.

The dub poet, known for his works about refugees and healthy eating, had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. He is also remembered for playing preacher Jeremiah Jesus on Peaky Blinders, the gritty crime drama set in his home city of Birmingham.

Ryan O’Neal

The Oscar-nominated US actor known for his roles in Love Story, What's Up, Doc? and Paper Moon, died on 8 December. He was 82.

In 1973, he starred in Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon opposite his 10-year-old daughter Tatum O’Neal, who became the youngest person ever to win an Oscar for her performance. O’Neal also earnt a Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) nomination at the Golden Globes for his performance.

Andre Braugher

Fans were devastated when the two-time Emmy-winning actor, who was best known for his indelible role as Captain Raymond Holt on the much-loved police sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, died aged 61 on 11 December after succumbing to lung cancer.

Braugher was remembered by many collaborators as an “irreplaceable talent”.

Lee Sun-kyun

Lee Sun-kyun (YONHAP/AFP via Getty Images)

South Korean actor Lee, who starred in the Oscar-winning film Parasite, was found dead in his car on 27 December. He was 48.

Lee’s death came just as he had come under investigation over illegal drug use amid an ongoing government crackdown on narcotics. Police are investigating whether the actor took his own life.

Tom Smothers

Smothers, the elder of the musical comedy duo the Smothers Brothers, died on 26 October at the age of 86.

Along with his younger brother Dick, the two made up the Smother Brothers, a musical double act whose performances of folk songs often descended into comedic squabbling.

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