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In Memoriam 2017: People We Lost This Year

We bid farewell to visionaries, iconoclasts and trailblazers – including Tom Petty, Chuck Berry and Chris Cornell – in music, film, TV and beyond

2017 was a painful year for many reasons, for many people: Trump, politics and almost everything happening in Washington, D.C. Natural disasters. Acts of terrorism. Gun violence. An unearthed pandemic of sexual misconduct. Amid all of this cacophony were sobering, destabilizing losses – the deaths of artists, creators and heroes in music and beyond. The passing of greats like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Glen Campbell and Gregg Allman marked the sad but inevitable fading of older, culture-defining generations. Others felt like a gut-punch: especially the sudden, shocking departures of Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and Tom Petty, masters who performed days before they left us. Regardless of the circumstances, the names here leave behind legacies and bodies of work to pore over and examine over the years to come – here’s how they’ll be remembered.

Harry Dean Stanton, circa 1970

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Harry Dean Stanton

Harry Dean Stanton, the beloved character actor who starred in over 200 films such as Repo Man, Paris, Texas, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Big Love and Pretty in Pink, died of natural causes in Los Angeles on September 15th. He was 91.

“The great Harry Dean Stanton has left us,” Twin Peaks director David Lynch said in a statement. “There went a great one. There’s nobody like Harry Dean. Everyone loved him. And with good reason. He was a great actor (actually beyond great) – and a great human being – so great to be around him!!! You are really going to be missed Harry Dean!!! Loads of love to where you are now!!”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images

Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images

Grant Hart

Grant Hart, drummer and singer of the seminal alternative rock band Hüsker Dü, died at 56 in September after being diagnosed with liver cancer.

“His drumming alone is enough to secure Grant Hart a place in the alt-rock history books, but that’s only part of his story,” Bob Mould Band drummer Jon Wurster wrote. “Grant was a top-shelf songwriter, penning and handling lead vocals on Hüsker Dü classics like ‘Terms of Psychic Warfare,’ ‘Diane,’ ‘Green Eyes’ and ‘The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill.'”

And what a voice. His was arguably the best to come out of the post-punk/hardcore/alternative scene: sweet and angelic one minute, menacing the next.

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Martin Landeau

Oscar-winning Ed Wood actor Martin Landau, who appeared in films by Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock, died following an unexpected complication during a brief hospitalization on July 15th. He was 89.

“I had the honor & joy of working/playing with Marty Landau. What a wonderful actor, what a wonderful soul,” Jeff Bridges wrote on Twitter. “He loved acting so much, and that love, that excitement was contagious. Thank you, Marty, for all you gave us.”

In Memoriam 2017: People We Lost This Year

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J. Geils

John Warren Geils Jr., better known as guitarist J. Geils of the J. Geils Band, was found unresponsive at his Groton, Massachusetts, home on April 11th; police later determined that he had died of natural causes. He was 71.

“Thinking of all the times we kicked it high and rocked down the house! R.I.P. Jay Geils,” vocalist Peter Wolf wrote in a post to Facebook shortly afterward.

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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George Romero

George A. Romero, the director who helped put zombies on the pop culture map with 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead, died following a brief battle with lung cancer on July 16th. He was 77.

“We always sort of refer to Night of the Living Dead as the Holy Grail of zombie movies,” The Walking Dead executive producer Greg Nicotero told Rolling Stone in 2013. “All of the rules – you’ve gotta shoot it in the head to kill it – before 1969, that little piece of folklore didn’t exist. Now it’s part of popular culture. So we owe a lot to George’s vision and the world he set up.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley, an acclaimed soul singer and former James Brown impersonator, died following a bout of stomach and liver cancer on September 23rd. He was 68.

“The world lost a ton of heart today,” Gabriel Roth, co-founder of Bradley’s label Daptone Records, said in a statement. “Charles was somehow one of the meekest and strongest people I’ve ever known. His pain was a cry for universal love and humanity. His soulful moans and screams will echo forever on records and in the ears and hearts of those who were fortunate enough to share time with him. I find some solace knowing that he will continue to inspire love and music in this world for generations to come. I told him as much a few days ago. He smiled and told me, ‘I tried.’ It was probably the simplest and most inspiring thing he ever told me. I think he wanted to hug each person on this planet individually. I mean that literally, and anyone that ever saw him knows that he honestly tried.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Butch Trucks

Trucks, one of the founding drummers of the Allman Brothers Band, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on January 24th. He was 69.

“He put 110 percent of himself into every song he played. He was the Lou Gehrig of rock drummers. …He would play with the utmost intensity till he was about to fall over with no regrets,” Allman Brother Band guitarist Warren Haynes said. “His mission in life was to serve the music. And serve the music he did.”

In Memoriam 2017

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Charlie Murphy

Charlie Murphy, Eddie Murphy’s older brother and an accomplished comedian in his own right, died of leukemia in New York City on April 12th. He was 57.

“He was the best storyteller I ever heard,” fellow comic D.L. Hughley said, reflecting on the many comedy gigs he did with Murphy on his radio program. “I’m sad that he’s gone, but I’m also happy that I got to know him. He rushed home to be with his family after every gig, he did comedy his way and he died with gigs on the books.” 

In Memoriam Rolling Stone 2017

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Powers Boothe

Veteran Hollywood villain Powers Boothe, who had memorable roles in films like Sin City and TV shows like Deadwood, died of natural causes in his sleep on May 14th. He was 68.

“Powers Boothe was an unbelievably talented actor and sweet sweet man,” tweeted Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone, who directed Booth as Colonel Faith in the comedy MacGruber. “He will be sorely missed. There will never be another Colonel Faith.”

In Memoriam Rolling Stone 2017

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Erin Moran

Erin Moran, the actress who played Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days and on its spinoff, Joanie Loves Chachi, died of complications with stage four cancer on April 22nd. She was 56.

Former Happy Days costar Ron Howard tweeted: “I’ll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up tv screens.”

In Memoriam 2017: People We Lost This Year

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Roger Moore

Roger Moore, who portrayed dapper big screen hero James Bond in seven different films, died following a long battle with cancer on May 23rd. He was 89.

“The love with which he was surrounded in his final days was so great it cannot be quantified in words alone,” his family said in a statement. We know our love and admiration will be magnified many times over, across the world, by the people who knew him for his films, his television shows and his passionate work for UNICEF which he considered to be his greatest achievement. Thank you Pops for being you, and for being so very special to so many people.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Edith Windsor

Gay rights pioneer Edith Windsor died of unspecified causes on September 12th, leading to an outpouring of remembrances from politicians and celebrities spanning several decades. She was 88.

“I lost my beloved spouse Edie, and the world lost a tiny but tough as nails fighter for freedom, justice and equality. Edie was the light of my life,” her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, said in a statement. “She will always be the light for the LGBTQ community which she loved so much and which loved her right back.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Jeanne Moreau

French actress and New Wave icon Jeanne Moreau, known best for her roles in Jules & Jim and Elevator to the Gallows, died of natural causes at her Paris apartment on July 31st. She was 89.

“A legend of cinema and theater … an actress engaged in the whirlwind of life with an absolute freedom,” French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted of Moreau. Pierre Lescure, president of the Cannes Film Festival, added in a statement, “She was strong and she didn’t like to see people pour their hearts out. Sorry, Jeanne, but this is beyond us. We are crying.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Dick Gregory

Dick Gregory, the pioneering comedian, civil rights activist and author, died in Washington, D.C., after complications during a hospitalization for a urinary tract infection on August 19th. He was 84.

“From comedy to civil rights to a life dedicated to equality, he never waned. Immeasurable generational sacrifice. A transformative blockbuster comedian who obliterated the color line,” Christian Gregory wrote of his father the day after his death. “He quickly realized that the inequities and travesties of life were no laughing matter. There is no question humanity is better for it, we will allow his legendary history to stand for itself. Generations will delve into his sacrifice, comedic genius, focus and aptitude. For now, we simply want to reflect on his Service and Grace. Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, children’s Rights, Human Rights, Disabled Rights, Animal Rights. Dick Gregory’s DNA is virtually on every movement for fairness and equality for all livings things on this planet. He was rarely one to rest and never one to stop championing for peace. Hopefully now he may find some semblance of them both.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Tobe Hooper

Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist director Tobe Hooper died of reportedly natural causes on August 26th at his home in Sherman Oaks, California. He was 74.

“To call The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a ‘slasher film’ or ‘just’ a horror movie is an insult at best. It is a film that stands side by side with some of the best films of its time – one every bit as powerful as Taxi Driver, Jaws, A Clockwork Orange and The Godfather. It is a true classic,” Rob Zombie wrote in a piece for Rolling Stone remembering Hooper. “Some people say that you’re only as good as your last project. That’s complete nonsense: Art has no timeline or expiration date. And for that reason, Tobe Hooper now resides along side the greats of cinema history.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Jay Thomas

Character actor Jay Thomas, who had memorable roles on Cheers and Murphy Brown, died following a battle with cancer on August 24th. He was 69.

“Jay Thomas was one of the funniest and kindest men I have had the honor to call both client and friend for 25 years-plus,” his publicist Thomas Estey told Variety at the time. “He will be dearly missed by so many.” Added his friend and agent Don Buchwald, “Jay was one of a kind, never at a loss for words and filled with so much fun and wonderfully wacky thoughts and behavior.” 

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Robert Guillaume

Robert Guillaume, who played the quick-witted and sarcastic Benson DuBois on Soap and the spinoff Benson, died at his Los Angeles home on October 24th after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 89.

“St. Louis’ finest. He may not have called himself the HNIC (see ‘Lean on Me’), so I’ll have to do it for him. RIP, sir,” actor Sterling K. Brown wrote. “Thank you for paving the way.” Added Sports Night costar Josh Malina, “R.I.P. Robert Guillaume. Saw him play Nathan Detroit on Broadway in 1976. Made me want to be an actor. It was a thrill to work w him on SN.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Troy Gentry

Troy Gentry, one half of the popular country duo Montgomery Gentry, was killed in a helicopter crash in Medford, New Jersey, on September 8th. He was 50.

“Our world was turned upside down in an instant and nothing could have prepared us for this,” his longtime singing partner Eddie Montgomery said in a statement a few days later. “Over the past few months T-Roy and I have been working on what I think is the best record of our career. In the last few weeks we had been talking about what our first single would be. Then on September 8th, none of that mattered.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Gord Downie

Gord Downie, the lead singer of beloved Canadian alt-rock band Tragically Hip, died on October 17th following a battle with terminal brain cancer. He was 53.

“Gord Downie is definitely in the tradition of great Canadian poets,” former MCA president Bruce Dickinson told the National Post in 2016. “There can be a certain darkness in the lyrics, in some ways that reminded me of reading and listening to Leonard Cohen or Robertson Davies. I think that’s all part of what appeals to Canadian fans. They’re five Canadian guys who go up on stage and they look like their audience. I think that everyman quality matters.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Ralphie May

Ralphie May, who parlayed a second-place finish on 2003’s Last Comic Standing into a successful comedy career – with several Comedy Central and Netflix specials – died October 6th in Las Vegas from hypertensive cardiovascular disease. He was 45.

Marc Maron called him a “comic warrior,” while Chris Rock recalled, “such a funny guy. My fellow comics, the road is rough. Don’t let it get the best of you.” Added Larry the Cable Guy: “You my friend were one of the nicest and kindest out there. Ralphie was one of the first people to congratulate me when I started filming blue collar tv. I’ll miss knowing he’s not out there anymore. Thanks for your kindness Ralphie.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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John Heard

John Heard, the actor perhaps best known for portraying Kevin McCallister’s dad in the Home Alone series, died of a heart attack in his Palo Alto, California, hotel room on July 21st. He was 72.

“John Heard was the coolest cat in New York City for about 10 straight years, 1974-1984. Ask anybody who was there then,” his longtime friend Daniel Stern wrote in remembrance of the late actor. “Every actor wanted to be as intense as him, every woman wanted to sleep with him. He lived life at 110 mph — Plato’s Retreat, Cafe Central, crazy, crazy drink and drug stamina. He was defiant, he was poetic, he was ridiculously generous and he was charismatic as hell.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

Chuck Mosley performs at Boston Music Room on October 10, 2016 in London, England.

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Chuck Mosely

Chuck Mosley, vocalist for 80s alt-metal band Faith No More, died following a long struggle with substance abuse on November 9th. He was 57.

“He was a reckless and caterwauling force of energy who delivered with conviction and helped set us on a track of uniqueness and originality that would not have developed the way it had had he not been a part,” the band said in a statement. “How fortunate we are to have been able to perform with him last year in a reunion style when we re-released our very first record. His enthusiasm, his sense of humor, his style and his bravado will be missed by so many. We were a family, an odd and dysfunctional family, and we’ll be forever grateful for the time we shared with Chuck.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Daisy Berkowitz

Daisy Berkowitz, nee Scott Putesky, the founding guitarist of Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids, died following a years-long battle with stage four colon cancer on October 22nd. He was 49.

“Scott Putesky and I made great music together,” Manson wrote on Instagram following Putesky’s death. “We had our differences over the years, but I will always remember the good times more. Everyone should listen to ‘Man That You Fear’ in his honor. That was our favorite.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Glenne Headly

Glenne Headly, star of films like Dick Tracy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Mr. Holland’s Opus, died June 9th at the age of 62 from complications of a pulmonary embolism.

Her Mr. Holland’s Opus costar Richard Dreyfuss told The Hollywood Reporter she was “this fantastically talented actress, who buried her personality beneath the character she was playing. And it is very rare that you run into that. And at the same time, she was sweet and funny and happy on the set… She was a person who did not insist that her personality take over the character.”

He added: “Glenne let it all out, and it was so emotionally enormous and truthful. It was so loaded with love and loss and anguish. It was incredible to see her do that.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone Anita Pallenberg

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Anita Pallenberg

Anita Pallenberg, the actress, model and former partner of Rolling Stones guitarists Brian Jones and Keith Richards, died at age 75 on June 13th after a long illness at St. Richard’s Hospital, Chicheste.

“She was a rock & roll legend in herself, a style icon, a crucial part of the Stones’ mystique,” Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield wrote. “She taught Keith her sinister glare, taught Mick Jagger her wiggle, taught Brian Jones how to wear floppy hats.

“A most remarkable woman. Always in my heart,” Richards said in a statement. 

Nelsan Ellis In Memoriam 2017

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Nelsan Ellis

Following complications from heart failure and alcohol addiction, Nelsan Ellis, the actor who portrayed Lafayette on all seven seasons of the HBO horror-drama series True Blood – with film roles in Lee Daniels’ The Butler (as Martin Luther King, Jr.), Secretariat, The Help, The Stanford Prison Experiment and James Brown biopic Get On Up, died at the age of 39 in July.

“Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me,” True Blood series creator Alan Ball said.

Added costar Anna Paquin: “It was an utter privilege to work with the phenomenally talented and deeply kind soul. I’m devastated by his untimely death.”

In Memoriam 2017 Rolling Stone

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Jessi Zazu

Jessi Zazu, the co-founder of Those Darlins and innovative singer who bridged country and indie rock sounds, died following a very public battle with cervical cancer in Nashville on September 12th. She was 28.

“Yesterday I said goodbye to my best friend, longtime partner in crime and hero, Jessi Zazu Wariner,” Those Darlins drummer Linwood Regensburg said in a statement. “She maintained a sense of humor and a commanding presence up until and through her final moments. She was in the company of those who cared deeply about her and who she cared deeply about.”

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