Gone in threes, 2020

They go in threes. They always go in threes. 2020 was relentless.

AIDS pioneers: Timothy Ray Brown (first person considered cured of HIV/AIDS), Leanza Cornett (Miss America 1993, made AIDS awareness her platform), Flossie Wong-Staal (biologist who was the first to clone HIV and determine function of its genes, leading to identifying HIV as the cause of AIDS)

All-star wrestlers: James Harris (Kamala), Rocky Johnson (WWE’s first Black champion, The Rock’s father), Pat Patterson (first openly gay wrestling star, created WWE’s Royal Rumble)

All that jazz, the ladies: Helen Woods Jones (trombone, International Sweethearts of Rhythm), Annie Ross (Lambert, Hendricks and Ross singer), Viola Smith (drums, Hour of Charm Orchestra, other New York bands)

All that jazz, the men: Ellis Marsalis Jr. (pianist, teacher, Marsalis family patriarch), Lyle Mays (a Wisconsin guy, keyboards, Pat Metheny Group), McCoy Tyner (pianist)

Baseball badasses: Dick Allen (“One day people will understand that standing up for yourself and your dignity makes you a man and not a malcontent.” — Mitchell Nathanson, his biographer), Steve Dalkowski (said to be hardest thrower ever, never made the majors, inspired Nuke LaLoosh character in “Bull Durham”), Phil Linz (Yankees bench guy whose harmonica playing incensed manager Yogi Berra, 1964)

Based on the novel: Winston Groom (“Forrest Gump”), Charles Portis (“True Grit” and “Norwood”), Charles Webb (“The Graduate”)

Basketball legends: John Thompson (Georgetown coach), Curly Neal (Harlem Globetrotters), Morgan Wootten (DeMatha High School, Hyattsville, Md.)

Beatlemania: Astrid Kirchherr (photographer during their Hamburg days, may or may not have helped create their mop top look), Fiona Adams (“Twist and Shout” cover photographer), Juliette Greco (French actress who inspired “Michelle”)

George Floyd mural, Minneapolis, June 2020

Black Lives Matter: Ahmaud Arbery (Brunswick, Ga.), George Floyd (Minneapolis), Breonna Taylor (Louisville).

I took this photo on Lake Street in Minneapolis in June, about a month after the unrest that followed his murder at the hands of police, and not far from where some of the unrest happened. It was the boarded-up window of the shop next to Hymie’s Vintage Records, one of my regular stops.

Boys of summer, circa 1955: Whitey Ford (Yankees), Roger Kahn (wrote “The Boys of Summer”), Don Larsen (Yankees)

Brewers, believe it or not: Ed Farmer (3 games, 1978), Tony Fernandez (28 games, 2001), Jim Wynn, “The Toy Cannon” (36 games, 1977)

By design: Ed Benguiat (typographer and logo designer, among them “Super Fly” and “Foxy Brown”), Milton Glaser (typographer and logo designer, I HEART NY logo, Bob Dylan psychedelic hair poster), Noel Spangler (graphic artist who designed Milwaukee’s Summerfest logo) 

Note: This entry was revised to include Noel Spangler, whose Dec. 29 death wasn’t made public until Jan. 12, the day after this post was published.

Cartoonists: Mort Drucker (“Mad” cartoonist and caricaturist), Ralph Dunagin (“Dunagin’s People”), Murray Olderman (sports cartoonist and caricaturist)

Cartoons: Doug Crane (“Mighty Mouse” and “Spider-Man” cartoons, “Heavy Metal” and “Beavis and Butt-Head” films), Joe Ruby and Ken Spears (“Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!”)

Citius, Altius, Fortius: K.C. Jones (Olympic basketball, gold medal, 1956), Bobby Morrow (Olympic sprinter, three gold medals, 1956), Kurt Thomas (Olympic gymnast, didn’t compete because of U.S. boycott, 1980)

Clint’s colleagues: Anthony James (bad guys in “High Plains Drifter” and “Unforgiven”), Lennie Niehaus (scored or orchestrated 20 Clint Eastwood films), John Saxon (Luis Chama in “Joe Kidd”)

Comic book creators: Allen Bellman (early “Captain America” artist), Denny O’Neil (“Green Lantern,” “Green Arrow,” “Batman” writer and editor), Marty Pasko (“Superman” writer)

Comic geniuses: Buck Henry, Terry Jones, Carl Reiner

Commercial stars: Wilford Brimley (Quaker oatmeal), Robert Conrad (Eveready batteries), Dena Dietrich (“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” for Chiffon margarine)

Commishes: David Stern (NBA), Mike Storen (ABA), Uncle Chuck (ran fantasy football league, died in October, team made fantasy championship game, opponent submitted blank lineup and renamed team Rest in Power, allowing Uncle Chuck’s Dumpster Diver team to win championship)

Computer support: Bill English (built prototype for first computer mouse, 1963), Russell Kirsch (first digital scan, 1957), Gary Starkweather (invented laser printer, 1969)

Crushes: Olivia de Havilland (Marian in “The Adventures of Robin Hood”), Diana Rigg (Emma Peel on “The Avengers”), Dawn Wells (Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island”)

Dazzling dancers: Marge Champion, Shabba Doo, Ann Reinking

Directors: Alan Parker, Gene Reynolds, Joel Schumacher

Electronic music pioneers: Max Crook (musitron, early monophonic synthesizer heard on Del Shannon’s “Runaway”), Florian Schneider (Kraftwerk), Andrew Weatherall (DJ, producer, remixer)

Entrepreneurs: Frank Carney (Pizza Hut), Matty Simmons (National Lampoon magazine, books, records and films), Sy Sperling (Hair Club for Men), 

Fast company: John Andretti, Stirling Moss (Formula One), Vicki Wood (one of NASCAR’s first women drivers)

Femme fatales: Mary Kay Letourneau (convicted of sexually assaulting her 6th-grade student, had a daughter with him, then married him and had another daughter with him), Cathy Smith (provided John Belushi’s fatal overdose), Linda Tripp (whistleblower in Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sex scandal)

Folkies: Judy Dyble (Fairport Convention), Bob Shane (Kingston Trio), Steve Weber (The Holy Modal Rounders)

Football badasses: Mike Curtis (leveled a fan who ran on the field, 1971), Tom Dempsey (kicker with no toes, his NFL-record 63-yard field goal stood for 43 years), Sam Wyche (“You don’t live in Cleveland! You live in Cincinnati!” he admonished snowball throwers, 1989)

Football Hall of Famers: Kevin Greene, Bobby Mitchell (first Black star for Washington, the last NFL team to integrate, 1962), Gale Sayers 

Freedom fighters: Bruce Boynton (arrested for entering whites-only portion of Richmond, Va., bus station, 1958; inspired Freedom Riders movement, 1961), Lucille Bridges (enrolled 6-year-old daughter in all-white New Orleans school, 1960), Mimi Jones (then 17, swam in St. Augustine, Fla., motel pool to protest segregation, 1964)

Gay life, dramatized: Mart Crowley (“The Boys in the Band” playwright), Larry Kramer (Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP founder, writer and playwright), Terrence McNally (“Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Love! Valour! Compassion!” playwright)

Glory Years Packers, all Hall of Famers: Herb Adderley, Paul Hornung, Willie Wood

Goldfinger: Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore), Sean Connery (Bond, James Bond), Margaret Nolan (Dink the masseuse, and the gold-covered woman in opening title sequence and movie ads)

Gone, country: Charlie Daniels, Charley Pride, Harold Reid (Statler Brothers)

Gone, too soon: Malik B (Roots), John “Ecstasy” Fletcher (Whodini), MF DOOM

Gospel greats: Rance Allen, Darick Campbell (Campbell Brothers sacred steel guitarist), Richard Wallace (Mighty Clouds of Joy guitarist)

Guilty as charged: George Blake (British-Russian Cold War double agent), Egil “Bud” Krogh (convicted Watergate figure who also arranged Nixon-Elvis visit in 1970), Jack Murphy (jewel thief known as Murph the Surf) 

Hall of Fame hitters: Lou Brock, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan

Hall of Fame pitchers: Bob Gibson, Phil Niekro, Tom Seaver

Hasta la bye bye: Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. (KKK member, 1963 Birmingham church bomber), Samuel Little (serial killer), Tom Metzger (KKK grand wizard, white supremacist)

Her stories: Shere Hite, Jan Morris, Elizabeth Wurtzel

Hosts with the most: Bobbie Battista (CNN), Jim Lehrer (PBS), James Lipton (“Inside the Actors Studio”)

The icemen cometh: Henri Richard (NHL Hall of Famer), Fred Sasakamoose (one of the first Canadian Indigenous NHL players), Mark Sertich (world’s oldest hockey player, still skating at 99, from Duluth, Minn.)

Inspirations: Mo Gaba (blind Baltimore sports fan with cancer, just 14), Pat Quinn (ALS ice bucket challenge), Travis Roy (paralyzed Boston University hockey player)

I saw them live: Little Richard, John Prine, Mike Somerville (Head East guitarist)

Joey Bishop’s sidekicks: Warren Berlinger, Abby Dalton, Regis Philbin

John Wayne’s co-stars: Kirk Douglas (“The War Wagon,” 1967), Rhonda Fleming (“In Old Oklahoma,” 1943, her uncredited debut), Stuart Whitman (“The Comancheros,” 1961)

A kid’s best friend: Joanna Cole (“The Magic School Bus” books), Tomie DePaola (children’s author), Jens Nygaard Knudson (created Lego minifigures)

Last laughs: Norm Crosby, Jerry Stiller, Fred Willard

Latin guitars: Chamin Correa (Los Tres Caballeros, session work), Rudy Salas (El Chicano, Tierra), Jorge Santana (Malo)

Legends: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Lewis, Chuck Yeager

Let’s play! Alex Trebek (“Jeopardy!”), Tom Kennedy (“You Don’t Say!” and “Name That Tune”), Hugh Downs (“Concentration”)

Lynns: Tami Lynn, Dame Vera Lynn, Lynn Evans Mand (The Chordettes)

M*A*S*Hup: Timothy Brown (Cpl. Judson in film, Dr. Spearchucker Jones on TV show), Kellye Nakahara (Nurse Kellye on TV show), Johnny Mandel (composed “Suicide Is Painless” theme)

Memorable women: Shirley Abrahamson (Wisconsin Supreme Court chief justice), Rosalind Walter (inspired 1942 song “Rosie the Riveter”), Betty Williams (Northern Ireland peace advocate, Nobel Peace Prize winner)

NBA tough guys: Tommy Heinsohn, Jerry Sloan, Wes Unseld

New Journalists: Robert Sam Anson, Pete Hamill, Gail Sheehy

Outlaw countrymen: Justin Townes Earle, Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker

Out of the old West: Carol Arthur (“Blazing Saddles”), Linda Cristal (“The High Chaparral”), James Drury (“The Virginian”)

Partners: Roy Horn (Siegfried’s Roy), David Lander (Squiggy’s Lenny), Chad Stuart (Jeremy’s Chad)

Power from the pulpit: Rev. Joseph Lowery (led Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott, 1955; founded Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1957), Rev. Darius Swann (challenged Charlotte, N.C., school segregation, 1964-65), Rev. C.T. Vivian (Freedom Rider, 1961, then worked in SCLC with King, who called him “the greatest preacher to ever live”)

Press box pioneers: Betty Caywood (one of the first women to broadcast MLB games, Kansas City Athletics, 1964), Phyllis George (one of the first women to host an NFL pregame show, “The NFL Today” on CBS, 1975), Jeannie Morris (first woman to cover sports at a major American daily newspaper, the Chicago American, 1968)

Remember the ABA: Bird Averitt, George Carter, Goo Kennedy

Roots rock reggae: Hux Brown (session guitarist, then Toots and the Maytals), Toots Hibbert, Johnny Nash

San Francisco nights: Wes Wilson (’60s psychedelic poster artist for The Fillmore), Bonnie MacLean (followed Wilson as ’60s psychedelic poster artist for The Fillmore), Baron Wolman (Rolling Stone photographer)

Scenesters: Miss Mercy Fontenot (groupie and G.T.O.’s singer), Michael McClure (San Francisco Beat poet, Jim Morrison pal, co-wrote “Mercedes Benz” with Janis Joplin), Ronan O’Rahilly (Radio Caroline DJ)

Screenwriters: William Blinn (“Brian’s Song,” “Purple Rain”), Gerald Gardner (“Get Smart,” “The Monkees”), Saul Turteltaub (“That Girl,” “Sanford and Son”)

Session men: Harold Beane (guitarist, Funkadelic, Isaac Hayes, Stax sessions), Pete Carr (guitarist, Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section), Joe Porcaro (jazz, pop and rock drummer; his three sons were in Toto)

Sidekicks: Kevin Dobson (Det. Bobby Crocker, “Kojak”), Ron McLarty (Sgt. Frank Belson, “Spenser: For Hire”), Lyle Waggoner (“The Carol Burnett Show” and Steve Trevor, “Wonder Woman”)

Singer-songwriters: Len Barry, Emitt Rhodes, Adam Schlesinger

Singers turned actors turned singers: Mac Davis, Trini Lopez, Kenny Rogers

Sister acts: Phyllis McGuire (the McGuire Sisters), Bonnie Pointer (the Pointer Sisters), Marge Redmond (Sister Jacqueline, “The Flying Nun”)

‘60s, ‘70s and ’80s ladies: Jan Howard, Helen Reddy, K.T. Oslin

Soul brothers: Sweet Pea Atkinson (Was [Not Was]), Ronald Bell (Kool & The Gang), Bill Withers

Soul sisters: Lorraine Chandler (Detroit singer-songwriter on the Pied Piper label), Pamela Hutchinson (The Emotions), Denise Johnson (Primal Scream)

Space, the final frontier: George Carruthers (designed Apollo 16 UV camera/spectrograph), Katherine Johnson (NASA mathematician), Al Worden (Apollo 15 astronaut who took first deep space walk)

Sportswriters: Don Friday (sports editor of his hometown paper in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, for 40 years), Sid Hartman (Minneapolis newspaper legend who still was working at 100), Vaughn McClure (ESPN football writer)

“Star Wars” stars you never saw: Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Alan Harris (Bossk), David Prowse (Darth Vader)

Storytellers: Mary Higgins Clark, Clive Cussler, John le Carre

Styling: Pierre Cardin, Simon Forbes (London punk hairstylist), Kansai Yamamoto (David Bowie clothing designer)

They were in the group? Georgia Dobbins (co-wrote “Please Mr. Postman” and was lead singer for the Marvels, which became the Marvelettes, but left the group before it signed its first record deal), Barbara Martin (fourth member of the Supremes, left when she became pregnant, 1962), Paul Matters (bass, AC/DC, played on an Australian tour, then was fired by Bon Scott after just a few weeks, 1975)

Typecast? Edd Byrnes (Kookie, “77 Sunset Strip”), Tom Lester (Eb Dawson, “Green Acres”), Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell, “Leave It To Beaver”)

Undefeated still, the 1972 Dolphins: Jim Kiick, Jake Scott, Don Shula

Unforgettable themes: Ja’net DuBois (“The Jeffersons”), Ennio Morricone (Sergio Leone films), Eric Weissberg (“Deliverance”)

Villainy: Hugh Keays-Byrne (“Mad Max” films), Tiny Lister (“Friday” films), Max von Sydow (“Three Days of the Condor,” “Flash Gordon,” “Never Say Never Again”)

What is art? Christo (large outdoor fabric installations), Tom Every (Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron, world’s largest scrap metal sculpture), Betty Pat Gatliff (pioneering forensic sculptor who reconstructed faces for investigators)

Wisconsin rocks: Bo Black (ran Summerfest, Milwaukee’s summer music festival, for almost 20 years), Steve Brill (aka Tom Hudson, DJ on WIFC, influential Top 40 and free-form FM station in Wausau in the mid-’70s), David Faas (bassist for Soup, much-loved and respected power trio in late ’60s and early ’70s)

Witness to history: Rafer Johnson (Olympic star who helped subdue RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan in 1968), Chuckie O’Brien (Jimmy Hoffa aide, companion and suspect), Hal “Cornbread” Singer (R&B/jazz sax player who was last male survivor of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre)

World music: Manu Dibango (Afrofunk pioneer from Cameroon, sax and vibes, “Soul Makossa”), Joseph Shabalala (Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder from South Africa), Millie Small (ska and bluebeat singer from Jamaica)

The Wright soul stuff: Betty Wright, Edna Wright (Honey Cone), Willie Wright

Gone In Threes, the band

Front men: Spencer Davis (The Spencer Davis Group), Wayne Fontana (Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders), Phil May (The Pretty Things)

Guitar: Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac), Eddie Van Halen, Leslie West (Mountain)

Bass: Rocco Prestia (Tower of Power), Steve Priest (The Sweet), Pete Way (UFO)

Drums and percussion: Tony Allen (Afrobeat drummer, Fela Kuti’s Africa ’70 and session work), Hamilton Bohannon (Bohannon), Neil Peart (Rush)

Keyboards: Dave Greenwood (The Stranglers), Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep), Bob Nave (The Lemon Pipers)

Horns: Marty Grebb (tenor sax for Bonnie Raitt, also keyboards in The Buckinghams), Robert Parker (sax, New Orleans acts, also sang “Barefootin'”), Alto Reed (sax, Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band)

The last word

Some memorable farewells

Ken Fuson, 63, longtime Des Moines Register reporter: “No, he didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize, but he’s dead now, so get off his back. … Yes, this obituary is probably too long. Ken always wrote too long. … See you in heaven. Ken promises to let you cut in line.”

Randall Jacobs, 65, of Phoenix: “In lieu of flowers, please pay someone’s open bar tab, smoke a bowl, and fearlessly carve out some fresh lines through the trees on the gnarliest side of the mountain.”

John Lang, 81, of Sheboygan, Wisconsin: “He ran into Willie Nelson at a favorite truck stop and the two ate lunch together. At an auto parts store John met Bob Seger and they bonded over their love of ’64 Plymouths. He also met Prince when he hauled equipment to Paisley Park.”

Jacqueline Ari Murray, 83, of Minneapolis: “In Jacqueline’s honor, take off your shoes, eat some ice cream, have a margarita or champagne, eat with your fingers on a picnic blanket in the sun, listen to Jazz and donate to causes that will elect a new president.”

Don Roever, 84, of Appleton, Wisconsin: “Please note those in Vikings or Bears apparel will be seated in the overflow area behind the dumpster. Lions fans are grudgingly accepted, and we will try to find a pillar for you to sit behind.”

Gene Wendlandt, 66, of Iola, Wisconsin: “Gene … died peacefully at home … after complications from a radioactive spider bite, which (led) to years of crime fighting. … Civilians will recognize him best as spider man.” One of Gene’s dogs was “Packer (the tire chewing, denture eating, alcoholic dog).”

That Tree. A burr oak tree, 160, maybe 200, Platteville, Wisconsin: “She taught me that life is beautiful but tenuous. You might not have another tomorrow. So tell the people you love that you love them today.” (Wonderful story written by my friend Susan Lampert Smith.)

Some furious farewells

Dr. Marvin Farr, 81, of Scott City, Kan.: “He was preceded in death by more than 260,000 Americans infected with COVID-19. … He was not surrounded by friends and family. … He died in a world where many of his fellow Americans refuse to wear a piece of cloth on their face to protect one another.”

David W. Nagy, 79, of Longview, Texas: “Family members believe David’s death was needless. They blame his death … on Trump, Abbott and all the other politicians who did not take this pandemic seriously. Also to blame are the many ignorant, self centered and selfish people … believing their ‘right’ not to wear a mask was more important than killing innocent people. … Shame on you all, and may Karma find you all!”

Mark Urquiza, 65, of Maryvale, Ariz.: “His death is due to the carelessness of the politicians who continue to jeopardize the health of brown bodies through a clear lack of leadership, refusal to acknowledge the severity of this crisis, and inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction on how to minimize risk.”

U.S. COVID-19 deaths: Approximately 348,309 at year’s end.

The stunners: There always is one death that takes your breath away. In 2020, there were two: Chadwick Boseman and Kobe Bryant.

Going in style: David Olney. The singer-songwriter was performing on stage at a songwriters’ festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. He was in the middle of his third song. He stopped. He apologized to the audience. He closed his eyes and died, an apparent heart attack. Because he was sitting upright, his guitar strapped around him, it looked like he’d just paused for a moment, until others realized something was wrong.

Noteworthy

This is not intended to be an inclusive list of all who died in 2020. This is my highly subjective list. Yours will be different. In 2020, they went in waves. I had some of the toughest decisions ever to get down to three in some of the categories.

The credits

Each year, I use these sources for this list.

We start with Wikipedia’s month-by-month lists of prominent deaths. Then we check with our friend Gunther at Any Major Dude, who compiles lists of notable music deaths each monthp. Each of those is more thorough than this roundup. Highly recommended. Then we go through a year of Mojo magazines, whose “Real Gone” and “They Also Served” features are wonderful. Other solid sources include News from ME (the blog by comics and animation writer Mark Evanier)Ultimate Classic Rock and the Washington Post.

Previous “Gone in threes” entries

2019 * 2018 * 2017 * 2016 * 2015 * 2014 * 2013 * 2012 * 2011 * 2010

Plus similar year-end posts in 2008 and 2009.

2 Comments

Filed under January 2021

2 responses to “Gone in threes, 2020

  1. That was a really entertaining…and surprising list. Sad, of course, but very interesting. Nicely done.

  2. Pingback: Magic Man and Other Tales – The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

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