I'm sure you all saw that the great Eartha Kitt has died. If you haven't listened to her music before, or don't know her life story, treat yourself to learning about both.
The passing of many people whose work I grew up with is a sad and interesting phenomenon. These are not people I know from history, like when you hear someone died, but don't know much about them, or maybe never heard of them, and you try to understand who they were and why the death is noteworthy.
They're also not people from my own generation, like when a death hits you personally, and you shudder at the realization of your own mortality and fragility.
These are people I came of age reading, listening to, being challenged by, admiring, learning from, or just enjoying. It's a generation passing.
Passings like that for me this year: Clive Barnes, George Carlin, Bo Diddley, John Leonard, Del Martin, Mitch Mitchell, Paul Newman, Odetta, Oscar Peterson (end of 2007), Utah Phillips, Harold Pinter, Rosetta Reitz, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Studs Terkel, Jerry Wexler, Abraham Woods.
Both Noam Chomsky (age 80) and Howard Zinn (age 86) lost their life partners this year.
Osborn Elliott, former editor and "architect" of Newsweek, my former boss and one-time mentor, died at the age of 84. Oz and I worked together on a march on Washington, a crazy time and amazing learning experience. He helped me get my first publication. Although we worked together for less than a year, it was a very intense time that had a lasting impact on my life. He was an amazing man - smart, talented, generous, adventurous, and hilarious - and I'll never forget him.
Some too-early deaths that touched me this year: Harriet McBryde Johnson, Danny Federici, Jeff Healy, and most of all, David Foster Wallace.
Other passings noted: Eliot Asinof, Dottie Collins, Buddy Harman, Don Helms, Bobby Murcer, Dith Pran.
Noted but not mourned: Charlton Heston.
Noted and cheered: Jesse Helms.
Allan and I lost two elderly family members this year, his grandmother Mary Wood and my great-aunt Lillian Weiss.
Of course these are just deaths that touched me this year. I memorialized some of them here. If you want to note anyone in comments, please feel free.