passings 2008

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.


Wrye said...

George Carlin was a hard one. I saw an ad in the local paper for an upcoming show of his, and thought, "I'd better see him while I have the chance", and he died the next day.

Another giant we lost this year was Arthur C. Clarke, though he had a pretty long run. And for the more countercultural out there, we also lost Bettie Page and Gary Gygax. All inspirational, in their own way.

laura k said...

Oh yes, good additions. Of course, many of these people were counterculture in their day, too - Del Martin, Odetta, Utah Phillips. And people like Harriet McBryde Johnson and Rosetta Reitz were always challenging the culture.

That's awful that you were thinking you should see George Carlin. We were driving up the Northern Peninsula in Newfoundland in the driving rain, listening to satellite radio, and the comedy stations were playing tons of his routines. And we thought, uh-oh, did George Carlin die...?

Charlie Anonymous said...

I'd like to join you in your cheering the demise of Jessie Helms.
And if I hadn't said it before, to question if when he was found, did anybody pry Chuck Heston's gun from his cold dead fingers?
Very sad about George Carlin and breathing an audible sigh of relief that John Paul Stevens is still drawing breath.