Farewell to a legendary generation

David Bowie's death in January marked the start of a long exodus of rock musicians and entertainers from the UK and America
David Bowie's death in January marked the start of a long exodus of rock musicians and entertainers from the UK and America / Reuters
  • The deaths of David Bowie, Prince and George Michael shook the entertainment world in 2016

  • Some of the greatest musicians and songwriters of the last century have left us over the last 12 months

Some years seem to collect more deaths of important or famous people than others. We are all conversant with the belief that these things always come in threes, or perhaps just that everything happens at the same time.

In terms of celebrity deaths, it would appear that 2016 has been one of the worst years for some considerable time. It has been a year during which a huge chunk of the British music and film industry has been erased.

Many television personalities disappeared from our screens, including Terry Wogan, Ronnie Corbett, Victoria Wood, Jean Alexander, Cliff Michelmore, Ian McCaskill, Caroline Alherne and Paul Daniels. Radio presenters Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart and Sir Jimmy Young also shuffled off this mortal coil.

We lost Andrew Sachs, famed for his role as abused waiter, Manuel, in the hit series Fawlty Towers, and Peter Vaughan, British character actor who played the feared prison warden in the hit television series Porridge. Vaughan also played Charlie Johnson in the John Sullivan '70s comedy Citizen Smith.

Other British actors who died include Frank Finlay, Alan Rickman, and Kenny Baker. Baker was best known for portraying the character R2-D2 in Star Wars. Co-incidentally the designer of R2-D2, Tony Dyson also passed away earlier this year. British actor Burt Kwouk (Pink Panther's 'Cato') died in May.

And earlier this week actress Carrie Fisher, the regal Princess Leia in Star Wars, died in Los Angeles at the age of 60. Fate struck a devastating blow the following day, when Fisher's actress mother, Debbie Reynolds, died from a severe stroke. The actress had apparently just told her son that "she would like to be with Carrie again" before she died.

We also lost Man From Uncle star Robert Vaughn who succumbed to leukaemia in November just days before his 84th birthday, and Zsa Zsa Gábor, actress and socialite who died two months prior to her 100th birthday. Author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Harper Lee died in February and actor Gene Wilder in August.

The sports world also lost a few legends, the most famous being Muhammad Ali, the most outspoken boxer in the history of the sport.

World political leaders, former prime ministers, ex-presidents and their first ladies also began to pass away. Nancy Reagan and Fidel Castro being the best known of them all.

George Martin, famed record producer responsible for much of The Beatles' recording catalogue, died in his sleep at his home in Wiltshire. He was 90.

It was the world of pop and rock music that would be affected the most and some of the greatest musicians and songwriters of the last century seemed to be dropping at a ridiculous rate.

Bowie bows out

No sooner had the door swung open on the new year, the world was shocked and deeply saddened by the death of the man who had such an impact on music, fashion and culture during the 1970s, 80s and beyond.

An artist who had continually recreated himself, introducing us to Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke, vanished like one of his theatrical creations.

David Bowie died at his New York apartment on 10 January after an eighteen-month battle with liver cancer.

In typical Bowie style, there was no lavish funeral or service of any kind. His body was cremated just hours after his death.

Because of Bowie's refusal to make his illness public, his fans were shocked by his sudden demise, but music lovers had no idea what was yet to come.

Over the next twelve months, some of the most influential people in the history of modern music would be nothing more than memories.

Two weeks after Bowie's death came the news that Black, a pop singer who had considerable fame in the 1980s with the hit song, Wonderful Life, had died after a car accident.

Several weeks would pass before the next piece of British musical history would leave us, and his passing would have a double sting some months later.

Keith Emerson, of British super group Emerson, Lake and Palmer, committed suicide after suffering bouts of depression brought on by his ailing physical condition. Ironically, nine months later, on 7 December, his band mate, Greg Lake, died after a long battle with cancer, making the group's drummer, Carl Palmer, the only surviving member of the band.

Two American music legends were next on this ever-growing list. Billy Paul, soul singer best known for his 1972 hit 'Me and Mrs Jones' died on 24 April, but three days previously, another of the greatest artists of the 1980s had left us.

Recognised by various pseudonyms (including a symbol), Prince, the flamboyant musician famous for hits like Purple Rain, Sign of the Times and Diamonds and Pearls, died of an accidental overdose. He was 57 years of age.

Pete Burns, singer of the 1980s pop group Dead or Alive, whose most famous hit was 'You Spin Me Round', passed away at the age of 57. The musician and television personality died of a sudden cardiac arrest on 23 October. Worse was still to come and the list seemed to gain momentum as the year came to a close.

On 7 November, Canadian singer, songwriter and poet, Leonard Cohen, died at the age of 82 in his home in Los Angeles. Cancer was the contributing cause. Cohen, considered one of the most influential poets of our time, received the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature in 2011.

On Christmas Eve, Rick Parfitt, 68-year-old front man of 70s legends, Status Quo, died in hospital in Marbella.

Like a final thrust of the reaper's blade, on Christmas Day, eighties heartthrob George Michael passed away at his Oxfordshire home. The 53-year-old singer, who died from heart failure, sold more than 100 million albums during his career.

One of his most famous hits was Last Christmas, a song title that might now seem eerily prophetic.