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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Basic Biittner : Lest We Forget

Friday, January 4, 2013

Well, another year has come and gone, and among other annual year-end traditions are a plethora of lists - lists of the year's top movies, songs, stories, et al.

One of the lists that is often posted is the list of well-known people who "shuffled off this mortal coil" (i.e., they died) during the year just ended.

I'm often astounded by the length of these lists, which usually number around 100, or roughly two people a week. I'm also usually surprised by some of the names on the list, as I had either missed the news of their death or forgotten.

Following is a list of just a few of the notable people who passed away in 2012. During the last week of the year, we lost a pair of great character actors. Charles Durning and Jack Klugman. Among the many films and television shows Durning graced with his presence were 'The Sting,' 'Tootsie', and 'Everybody Loves Raymond'. Klugman, of course, is best remembered for his recurring roles in the TV series 'The Odd Couple' and "Quincy,' but he also turned in memorable performances in the films 'The 12 Angry Men' and 'The Days of Wine and Roses.'

Two groundbreaking musicians also died within days of each other recently - Ravi Shankar, who introduced the Western world to his native Indian music and his instrument, the sitar, and Dave Brubeck, the jazz pianist whose quartet produced the classic '60s albums, 'Time Out' and 'Time Further Out,' the first of which included the legendary tune 'Take Five'.

From the world of sports, those who died in 2012 included former college basketball coach Rick Majerus; long-time Texas University football coach and Athletic Director Darrell Royal; labor attorney Marvin Miller, who was instrumental in forming the Major League Baseball Players Union and handling cases which led to the destruction of the Reserve Clause and the birth of free agency; former Iowa All American and Detroit Lion standout Alex Karras, who later crossed over to acting; former standout NFL linebacker Junior Seau; baseball Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter; and the legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

From the acting ranks, we lost Larry Hagman, remembered by many as J.R. Ewing from the 'Dallas' t.v. series, but to me he'll always be Tony Nelson from 'I Dream of Jeannie'; the gentle giant, deep-voiced Michael Clarke Duncan, from "the Green Mile'; Richard Dawson, from 'Hogan's Heroes' and 'The Family Feud'; Chad Everett from the 70's series 'Medical Center'; Sherman Hemsley, best known as 'George Jefferson' in 'The Jeffersons' t.v. series; Ernest Borgnine, Academy Award winner for 1955's 'Marty', but probably best remembered as Capt. McHale in the 'McHale's Navy' t.v. series and his co-starring roles in 'From Here to Eternity' and 'The Wild Bunch'; Ben Gazarra, who I remember from the late '60s t.v. series 'Run For Your Life'; George Lindsay, best known as 'Goober Pyle' from The 'Andy Griffith Show; and, of course, Andy Griffith himself.

We also said goodbye to former Senator and Presidential candidate George McGovern; painters Leroy Niemann, best known for his colorful paintings of sports action and Thomas Kincade; astronautd Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride; news correspondent and '60 Minutes' anchor Mike Wallace; and General Norman Schwarzkopf.

The world of music lost many stellar performers, from a variety of musical genres, in 2012, including Iowa native Andy Williams, a pop music and TV superstar of the 1950s-1970s who later became a cornerstone of the Branson, Missouri music scene; lyricist Hal David, long-time collaborator of Burt Bacharach; Scott McKenzie, the one-hit wonder singer of John Phillips' "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)" and also the co-composer of the Beach Boys' hit, 'Kokomo'; composer/conductor Marvin Hamlisch, most famous for his work on the soundtracks of 'The Sting' and 'The Way We Were'; legendary country guitarist and singer Doc Watson; Robin Gibb, member of The Bee Gees; Donald "Duck" Dunn, bass player with Booker T. and the MGs, the "house band" for the great 60s R &B records from Stax Records in Memphis, and later a member of The Blues Brothers band; Davy Jones, lead singer with The Monkees; disco queen Donna Summer; singer Whitney Houston; blues queen Etta James; Levon Helm, drummer and frequent lead singer of The Band; and the man who, though he didn't perform himself, brought us most of the great performers of the Rock and Roll Era on his TV show, Dick Clark. Quite a list.

One thing about the passing of celebrities, though. Celebrities never die, in one sense. They have a bit of immortality, as they'll always be with us whenever we watch their movies and t.v.shows or listen to their recordings.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner