Celebrity deaths 2016: Prince, Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman, David Bowie and the cultural icons who passed away

After news of Prince's untimely death, fans are noting the amount of high-profile deaths already witnessed in 2016

Olivia Blair
Friday 22 April 2016 15:11 BST
Cultural icons who have passed away in 2016

We are less than five months into 2016 and yet the world has already lost giants of film, music, television, art and entertainment. Many people have learned about the death of their idols this year, with the BBC noting it has published double the number of obituaries compared to this time last year. We remember some of the people whose deaths had the biggest impact in 2016.



Died April 21, age 57.

An outpouring of grief has ensued following the acclaimed singer and songwriter's death. Over the span of four decades, Prince pushed creative boundaries with sexually charged lyrics, a flamboyant and androgynous stage persona and by always speaking his mind –famously changing his name to a symbol in protest at his record company in 1993. Reacting to news of his death, President Obama called him "one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time".

Victoria Wood

(Getty (Getty)

Died April 20, aged 62.

As a woman who broke class boundaries by becoming a popular actress and comedian on the BBC, Wood’s comedy Dinner Ladies was one of many award-winning projects. Her death from cancer prompted an outpouring from some, but one of her closest friends, Julie Walters, was simply too heartbroken to comment.

David Bowie

David Bowie (Getty)

Died January 10, aged 69.

The shock of Bowie’s death reverberated around the world, prompting tributes in his hometown, Brixton, in parks, at concerts and virtually any space where people could gather to pay homage to the music legend. His various personas were celebrated first by his wife Iman in a series of Instagram posts in the days leading up to his death and then by music critics and fans, with Aladdin Sane lightning bolts cropping up on faces across the world.

Alan Rickman

(2015 Getty Images)

Died January 14, aged 69.

Rickman had also kept his cancer diagnosis private, having been diagnosed just weeks before passing away. The man most famous for playing Snape could not have been any more different in real life, and a number of tributes focused on the kindness and warmth that emanated from him.

One of Rickman’s final roles was to provide a voice-over for a refugee fundraising campaign.

Aside from being loved and revered, Rickman and Bowie both had another commonality: their working class backgrounds. In an industry dominated by money and saturated with middle-class actors and musicians, both came from relative poverty to reach the top of their respective professions.

Ronnie Corbett

(Getty Images)

Died March 31, aged 85.

As a man who could make every family member gathered around the TV laugh, Corbett quickly became one of Britain’s most loved entertainers. Even his funeral had an element of comedy to it, with four candles at the back of the service in a reference to Four Candles - or Fork Handles, one of the most famous sketches from The Two Ronnies sitcom.

His death also sparked rumblings about the fact that Corbett was never knighted.

Zaha Hadid

Dame Zaha Hadid () (2010 AFP)

Died March 31, aged 65.

An influential female architect, Hadid rose to prominence in an industry she considered a boy’s world. In February, Hadid had described being “judged a lot more harshly because I am a woman”.

Her death also engendered a conversation about sexism within architecture as female architects paid tributes to Hadid. Award winning architect Alison Brooks claimed women and to work harder to succeed. “I think Zaha was right that women have to work harder than men to prove themselves,” she told The Guardian. “There is a shortage of women architects at the top of the profession and running their own practices in the UK.

Harper Lee


Died February 19, aged 89.

By the time of her death in February, the elusive to Kill a Mockingbird author had managed to evade the press for her entire career. Notoriously private, Lee did everything she could to avoid the attention borne from being one of the most famous authors in the world, despite having only ever published two novels.

Terry Wogan

(Getty Images)

Died January 31, aged 77.

Veteran broadcaster Wogan passed away after a cancer illness in January. His immediately recognisable voice graced TV screens and radio programmes over a five-decade period. While many fans remembered 'waking up with Wogan' on Radio 2, younger generations knew him from the Eurovision Song Contest and fronting the annual Children In Need campaign, a campaign he raised life-changing amounts of money for.

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