They go in threes. They always go in threes.
Badasses: Richard Cole (the last of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of World War II), Al Haynes (United pilot crash-landed a crippled DC-10 –“a cartwheeling ball of flame” — in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1989, saving 185 of 296 people on board), Paul Krassner (Yippies, Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, “The Realist”)
Badasses, too: Leah Chase (New Orleans chef who hosted secret civil rights strategy meetings at her restaurant during the ’60s), Dorothy Fontana aka D.C. Fontana (writer and story editor on original “Star Trek” TV series), Dorothy Olsen (ferried fighter planes across the country during World War II)
Baseball trailblazers: Pumpsie Green (integrated Red Sox, the last team to do so, in 1959), Don Newcombe (first black to start a World Series game, 1949), Frank Robinson (first black manager, 1975)
Basketball trailblazers: Wat Misaka (broke pro basketball color barrier, 1947), Johnny Neumann (first player to sign under hardship clause, 1971), Carl Scheer (invented ABA slam dunk contest, 1976)
“Batman” bad guys: Seymour Cassel (Canceled, TV show, 1967), Sid Haig (Royal Apothecary, TV show, 1966), Rutger Hauer (William Earle, “Batman Begins”)
Beatlemania: Robert Freeman (photographed five album covers — “With the Beatles,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Beatles For Sale,” “Help!” and “Rubber Soul”), Johnny Hutchinson (drummer filled in with Silver Beetles and early Beatles, once considered as Pete Best’s replacement but passed on joining the band), Terry O’Neill (photographed Beatles in early ’60s),
Black queens: Diahann Carroll (actress and singer), Toni Morrison (writer), Jessye Norman (opera)
Brow-beaten ballplayers: Andy Etchebarren, Tex Clevenger, Don Mossi
The Bucks stop here: Chet Coppock (broadcaster), Tom Nissalke (assistant coach), Bob Rule (played one game with Milwaukee in 1974; it was his last NBA game)
By the numbers: Jerry Merryman (helped invent handheld electronic calculator), Dan Robbins (invented paint-by-number kits), Seymour Siwoff (Elias Sports Bureau)
Composers: Jerry Herman, Michel Legrand, Andre Previn
Cool chicks: Susan Bernard (“Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”), Peggy Lipton (“The Mod Squad”), Sylvia Miles (pretty much everything she was in)
Covered: Pedro Bell (Funkadelic album art), Raeanne Rubenstein (Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic” cover photo), Guy Webster (“The Doors” and many memorable late ’60s LP cover photos)
Fast company: Lee Iacocca (Ford, Ford Mustang, Chrysler), Junior Johnson (NASCAR), Niki Lauda (Formula One)
Filmmakers: Stanley Donen (musicals), D.A. Pennebaker (documentaries), John Singleton (black cinema)
FYI, they guested on N.Y.P.D.: Verna Bloom (1967), Robert Forster (1967), Bill Macy (1969)
Globetrotters: Jumpin’ Jackie Jackson, Fred Marberry, Jumpin’ Johnny Wilson
Gone viral: Pete Frates (ALS patient who popularized ice bucket challenge), Bruno Ganz (Swiss actor’s Hitler bunker scene in “Downfall” inspired many YouTube parodies), Grumpy Cat
Godfathers, Part 2: Danny Aiello (Tony Rosato), Carmine Caridi (Carmine Rosato), Barry Malkin (editor)
Hasta la bye bye: Nuon Chea (Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge), Juan Corona (California serial killer), Li Peng (China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown)
Heard, but not seen: Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca of “Star Wars”), Maria Perego (created Topo Gigio), Caroll Spinney (Big Bird and Oscar of “Sesame Street”)
Here come the judge: Red Cashion (NFL referee; “First dawwwwwwon!”), Jim McKean (MLB umpire), John Paul Stevens (Supreme Court)
He was in the band? Mike Grose (Queen’s first bassist), Doug Sandom (Who’s first drummer), Larry Wallis (Motorhead’s first guitarist)
Hey, hey, they were Monkees: Gerry McGee (guitar on “The Monkees” theme, “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Valleri” and more; also in the Ventures), Larry Taylor, bass on “The Monkees” theme and “Last Train to Clarksville” and more; also in Canned Heat), Peter Tork
High society: Lee Radziwill, Gloria Vanderbilt, Claus von Bulow
Hollywood royalty: Carol Channing, Doris Day, Peter Fonda
Hosts with the most: Bob Dorian (American Movie Classics), Robert Earle (“GE College Bowl”), Jim Fowler (“Wild Kingdom”)
Hosts with the most, sports division: “Mean” Gene Okerlund (AWA, WWF, WCW, WWE wrestling), Lou Palmer (ESPN), Jack Whitaker (CBS and ABC)
Inventive: Fred Cox (Vikings kicker helped invent Nerf football), George Laurer (helped develop UPC bar codes), Alan R. Pearlman (ARP synthesizers)
Irreverent writers: Jim Bouton (“Ball Four”), Dan Jenkins (“Semi-Tough”), Nick Tosches (Jerry Lee Lewis, Dean Martin, Sonny Liston biographies)
Last laughs, the men: Tim Conway, Arte Johnson, John Witherspoon
Last laughs, the women: Kaye Ballard, Georgia Engel, Valerie Harper
Lovers, American Style: David Hedison (one episode, 1969), Sue Lyon (two episodes, 1969, 1974), Louisa Moritz (three episodes, 1971, 1972)
Movie inspirations: Herman Boone (“Remember the Titans” coach), James “Radio” Kennedy (yes, that “Radio”), Chuck Kinder (“Wonder Boys” professor)
Muscle Shoals session men: Jerry Carrigan (drums), Donnie Fritts (keyboards), Reggie Young (guitar)
‘Nawlins legends: Dave Bartholomew, Dr. John, Art Neville
Notorious: Scotty Bowers (Hollywood pimp and fixer), Rosie Ruiz (faked Boston Marathon victory), Charles Van Doren (’50s TV quiz show scandal)
Obit desk: Fred Berner (Wisconsin publisher who died at his desk on the week he was to retire), Robert Elkin (New York journalist), Jim Nicholson (Philadelphia Daily News obit writer)
Packers from the Glory Years: Zeke Bratkowski, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr
Producers: Robert Evans (films), Lee Mendelson (Charlie Brown specials), Harold Prince (Broadway)
R&B brothers: James Ingram, Harvey Scales, Andre Williams
R.I.P., Rip: Steve Ripley (The Tractors), Rip Taylor, Rip Torn
Representative of America: John Conyers, Elijah Cummings, John Dingell
Rolling with the Stones: Robert Frank (“Cocksucker Blues”), Jimmy Johnson (engineered three tracks on “Sticky Fingers” at Muscle Shoals), Michael Putland (tour photographer)
Songwriters: Robert Hunter (Grateful Dead), Les Reed (co-wrote “It’s Not Unusual” and “Delilah” for Tom Jones, “There’s a Kind of Hush” for Herman’s Hermits), Allee Willis (co-wrote Earth, Wind & Fire hits, “I’ll Be There For You,” Rembrandts song that became theme for “Friends” TV show)
Soul brothers: Chuck Barksdale (Dells), Willie Ford (Dramatics), Jerry Lawson (Persuasions)
Soul sisters: Doris Duke, Clydie King, Jackie Shane
Space, the final frontier: Mickey Kapp (made mixtapes, chose music for Apollo astronauts), Chris Kraft (NASA’s first flight director, created Mission Control), Alexei Leonov (first person to walk in space)
Star Trek, stardate 1966: Michael J. Pollard (Jahn, “Miri”), Robert Walker Jr. (Charlie Evans, “Charlie X”), Morgan Woodward (Dr. Simon van Gelder, “Dagger of the Mind”)
Subversive humor: Russ Gibb (“Paul is dead” prankster on Detroit radio), Neil Innes (Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Monty Python, “The Rutles”), Gahan Wilson (macabre cartoonist)
Trailblazers: Patricia Bath (first black woman doctor to get medical patent), Jerrie Cobb (first woman to complete the same preflight testing as the Mercury Seven astronauts), Edith Irby Jones (first black woman at all-white medical school in the South)
Truth seekers: Wallace Smith Broecker (climate scientist who helped popularize “global warming” term), Robert Morgenthau (longtime New York federal prosecutor and Manhattan district attorney), William Ruckelshaus (quit as Nixon’s deputy attorney general rather than fire Watergate special prosecutor)
Voices of Americana: Sleepy LaBeef (about whom I once did 52 blog posts, one a week, here at the blog), Leon Redbone, Russell Smith (Amazing Rhythm Aces)
“The White Shadow” fades to black: John Falsey (writer), Jerry Fogel (Bill Donahue), Larry “Flash” Jenkins (Wardell Stone)
Witness to history: Werner Doehner (last survivor of 1937 Hindenburg crash), Jim Leavelle (Dallas police detective escorting Lee Harvey Oswald when he was shot in 1963), George Mendonsa (kissing sailor in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous V-J Day photo in 1945)
World music: Irving Burgie (Caribbean composer), Beth Carvalho (Brazil’s godmother of samba), Joao Gilberto (bossa nova)
Wrecking Crew session men: Hal Blaine (drums), Dick Hyde, (trombone), Emil Richards (percussion; the finger snaps on “The Addams Family” theme and the bongos on the “Mission: Impossible” theme)
Gone in Threes, the band
Front men: Jules Blattner (Midwest roadhouse fave with the Warren Groovy All-Star Band), Roky Erickson (13th Floor Elevators), Ric Ocasek (Cars)
On guitar: Paul Barrere (Little Feat), J.R. Cobb (The Classics IV, Atlanta Rhythm Section), Dick Dale
On bass: George “Pops” Chambers (Chambers Brothers), Eric Haydock (Hollies), Larry Junstrom, (Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special)
On drums: Ginger Baker (Cream), Dick Richards (Bill Haley & The Comets), Paul Whaley (Blue Cheer)
On keyboards: Daryl Dragon (Beach Boys, Captain and Tennille), Lenny Pakula, keyboards (MFSB), Larry Willis (Blood, Sweat & Tears)
On winds: Steve Cash, harmonica (Ozark Mountain Daredevils), Malcolm “Molly” Duncan, sax (Average White Band), Steve Madaio, trumpet (Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Stevie Wonder)
The stunners: There always is one death that takes your breath away. In 2019, there were two.
The stunner among a bunch of friends on the local music scene was the passing of Kim Shattuck, the lead singer and guitarist for the Muffs. She’d played gigs in Green Bay — the video above is from the Muffs’ show here on Aug. 27, 2016 — and by all accounts she was a wonderful person and a tremendous musician, one of the all-time great rock chicks.
The stunner closest to home was Emmanuel. He was our son’s college roommate for a brief time in late 2013. Then, after staying in his dorm room until the last possible second, Emmanuel became homeless. He was separated from his Latino family, could no longer afford college and was, as he told Evan, “a U.S. citizen but not the right kind of U.S. citizen.” So Emmanuel lived in our basement rec room for the first half of 2014, working at Sears and saving money to get back on his feet. He accomplished that and moved to Chicago, where he died in late October. Emmanuel was 24.
The last word
Some memorable obits: William C. Ebeltoft from Montana (“He died 50 years after he lost, in Vietnam, all that underpinned his life.”), Katy Lynn McDonald from Georgia (The family believes she did it on purpose to avoid having to cast another vote in the American elections.”), Tim Schrandt from Iowa (“We are considering establishing a Go-Fund-Me account for G. Heileman Brewing Co., the brewers of Old Style beer, as we anticipate they are about to experience significant hardship as a result of the loss of Tim’s business.”)
— This is not intended to be an inclusive list of all who passed in 2019. This is my highly subjective list. Yours will be different.
Nipsey Hussle isn’t on this list. Nor is Juice Wrld. That’s because I’m of a certain age, having grown up in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Nothing illustrates this better than the passing of Jack Sheldon in late December. Mention his name, and many go right to “Schoolhouse Rock!” and rightly so. But that came after my childhood, so I have no connection to it. Nor largely, any connection to his work as a jazz trumpeter. No, I know Jack Sheldon from an obscure, long-ago sitcom, “Run Buddy Run.” We watched sitcoms at our house, and that was one.
— This year was harder than most for organizing actors. It pains me to put Robert Forster, one of my favorite actors, and Verna Bloom and Bill Macy, who were in two of my favorite films, together in a reference to “N.Y.P.D.,” another late ’60s TV show that few remember.
— Each year, I use three prime sources for this list.
First, the Wikipedia contributors who compile month-by-month lists of prominent deaths. That’s where we start.
Second, our friend Gunther at Any Major Dude, who compiles lists of notable music deaths each month, along with a year-end roundup. Each of those is more thorough than this roundup. Highly recommended.
Third, the folks at Mojo magazine, whose “Real Gone” and “They Also Served” features are wonderful.
Other sources include comics and animation writer Mark Evanier’s blog News from ME, Ultimate Classic Rock and the Washington Post.
Previous “Gone in threes” entries
2018 * 2017 * 2016 * 2015 * 2014 * 2013 * 2012 * 2011 * 2010
Plus similar year-end posts in 2008 and 2009.