Embracing Soviet-style communism, Fidel Castro overcame imprisonment and exile to become leader of Cuba and defy the power of the United States at every turn.
The strongman’s half-century rule was marked by the unsuccessful U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. But after surviving a crippling trade embargo and dozens of assassination plots, Castro died in November at age 90.
Perhaps befitting the controversial leader, his death elicited both tears and cheers across the Western Hemisphere.
But Castro was just one of many noteworthy people who died in 2016.
The year also saw the deaths of pop music giants: David Bowie, who broke musical boundaries through his musicianship and striking visuals, and Prince, who was considered one of the most inventive and influential musicians of modern times.
Among the political figures who died in 2016 was the world’s longest reigning monarch: King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was revered in Thailand as a demigod, a father figure and an anchor of stability through decades of upheaval.
Others in the world of public affairs included former United National Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, ex-senator and astronaut John Glenn, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, former Israeli leader Shimon Peres and former U.S. first lady Nancy Reagan.
In the sports arena, the year saw the passing of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, whose fast fists and outspoken personality brought him fans around the world. Other sports figures included: golfer Arnold Palmer, Gordie “Mr. Hockey” Howe, basketball players Dwayne “Pearl” Washington and Nate Thurmond, Olympians Vera Caslavska and Tommy Kono, wrestlers Harry Fujiwara and Chyna, and mixed martial arts fighter Kimbo Slice.
Artists and entertainers who died in 2016 included author Harper Lee, conductor Pierre Boulez, musicians Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Phife Dawg, and actors Gene Wilder, Abe Vigoda, Florence Henderson, Alan Rickman, Robert Vaughn, Garry Shandling, Doris Roberts, Alan Thicke, Fyvush Finkel and Anton Yelchin.
Here is a roll call of some of the people who died in 2016. (Cause of death cited for younger people, if available.)
Dale Bumpers, 90. Former Arkansas governor and U.S. senator who earned the nickname “giant killer” for taking down incumbents, and who gave a passionate speech defending Bill Clinton during the president’s impeachment trial. Jan. 1
Pierre Boulez, 90. Former principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic who moved between conducting, composition and teaching as one of the leading figures in modern classical music. Jan. 5.
Pat Harrington Jr., 86. Actor and comedian who in the 1950s got attention as a member of Steve Allen’s fabled TV comic troupe but secured lasting fame decades later as Dwayne Schneider, the cocky handyman on the long-running sitcom “One Day at a Time.” Jan. 6.
Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, 96. Twin sister of Iran’s deposed shah whose glamorous life epitomized the excesses of her brother’s rule. Jan. 7.
Otis Clay, 73. Hall of fame rhythm and blues artist known as much for his big heart and charitable work in Chicago as for his singing internationally. Jan. 8.
David Bowie, 69. Other-worldly musician who broke pop and rock boundaries with his creative musicianship, striking visuals and a genre-spanning persona he christened Ziggy Stardust. Jan. 10.
Alan Rickman, 69. Classically-trained British stage star and sensual screen villain in the “Harry Potter” saga and other films. Jan. 14.
Rene Angelil, 73. Celine Dion’s husband and manager, who molded her from a French-speaking Canadian ingénue into one of the world’s most successful singers. Jan. 14.
Dan Haggerty, 74. Rugged, bearded actor who starred in the film and TV series “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams.” Jan. 15.
Glenn Frey, 67. Rock ‘n’ roll rebel who co-founded the Eagles and with Don Henley formed one of history’s most successful songwriting teams with such hits as “Hotel California” and “Life in the Fast Lane.” Jan. 18.
Abe Vigoda, 94. Character actor whose leathery, sad-eyed face made him ideal for playing the over-the-hill detective Phil Fish in the 1970s TV series “Barney Miller” and the doomed Mafia soldier in “The Godfather.” Jan. 26.
Paul Kantner, 74. Founding member of the Jefferson Airplane who stayed with the seminal band through its transformation from 1960s hippies to 1970s hit makers as the eventual leader of successor group Jefferson Starship. Jan. 28.
Signe Toly Anderson, 74. Vocalist and original member of the Jefferson Airplane who left the band after its first record and was replaced by Grace Slick. Jan. 28.
Linus Maurer, 90. Cartoonist and illustrator whose old friend Charles M. Schulz borrowed his first name for Charlie Brown’s blanket-carrying best friend Linus in his “Peanuts” comic strip and cartoons. Jan. 29.
Georgia Davis Powers, 92. Giant in the fight for civil rights in Kentucky and the first African-American woman elected to the state Senate. Jan. 30.
Terry Wogan, 77. His warm Irish brogue and sly, gentle humor made him a star of British television and radio for decades. Jan. 31.
Bob Elliott, 92. Half of the enduring TV and radio comedy team Bob and Ray. Feb. 2.
Maurice White, 74. Earth, Wind & Fire founder whose horn-driven band sold more than 90 million albums. Feb. 3.
Ferd Kaufman, 89. Associated Press photographer who was at Dallas police headquarters as authorities brought in President John F. Kennedy’s assassin. Feb. 3.
Edgar Whitcomb, 98. Former Indiana governor who escaped from a Japanese prisoner camp by swimming overnight during World War II and then made an around-the-world solo sailing trip while in his 70s. Feb. 4.
Edgar Mitchell, 85. Apollo 14 astronaut who became the sixth man on the moon when he and Alan Shepard helped NASA recover from Apollo 13’s “successful failure.” Feb. 4.
Antonin Scalia, 79. Influential conservative and most provocative member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Feb. 13.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 93. Veteran Egyptian diplomat who helped negotiate his country’s landmark peace deal with Israel but clashed with the United States when he served a single term as U.N. secretary-general. Feb. 16.
Andrzej Zulawski, 75. Filmmaker and writer named best director last year at a film festival in Switzerland for his latest film, “Cosmos.” Feb. 17.
Angela “Big Ang” Raiola, 55. Raspy-voiced bar owner who gained fame on the reality TV series “Mob Wives.” Feb. 18.
Harper Lee, 89. Elusive novelist whose child’s-eye view of racial injustice in a small Southern town, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” became standard reading for millions of young people and an Oscar-winning film. Feb. 19.
Umberto Eco, 84. Italian author who intrigued, puzzled and delighted readers worldwide with his best-selling historical novel “The Name of the Rose.” Feb. 19.
Eric “Winkle” Brown, 97. British pilot who flew more kinds of aircraft than anyone in history and was the first person to land a jet on an aircraft carrier. Feb. 21.
Sonny James, 87. Country singer who recorded romantic ballads like “Young Love” and turned pop songs into country hits. Feb. 22.
George Kennedy, 91. Hulking, tough-guy actor who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a savage chain-gang convict in the 1960s classic “Cool Hand Luke.” Feb. 28.
Tony Warren, 79. British writer who created the long-running soap opera “Coronation Street.” March 1.
Thanat Khoman, 101. As Thailand’s foreign minister, he helped cement his country’s close relations with the United States during the Vietnam War. March 3.
Joey Feek, 40. With her husband, Rory, she formed the award-winning country duo Joey + Rory. March 4.
Pat Conroy, 70. Author of “The Great Santini,” ”The Prince of Tides” and other best-sellers, whose novels drew upon his bruising childhood and the vistas of South Carolina. March 4.
Raymond Tomlinson, 74. Inventor of modern email and a technological leader. March 5.
Nancy Reagan, 94. Helpmate, backstage adviser and fierce protector of Ronald Reagan in his journey from actor to president – and finally during his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. March 6.
George Martin, 90. The Beatles’ urbane producer who quietly guided the band’s swift, historic transformation from rowdy club act to musical and cultural revolutionaries. March 8.
Peter Maxwell Davies, 81. Experimental, socially radical composer who served as Queen Elizabeth II’s official master of music. March 14. Leukemia.
Frank Sinatra Jr., 72. He carried on his father’s legacy with his own music career; his kidnapping as a young man added a bizarre chapter to his father’s legendary life. March 16.
Meir Dagan, 71. Former Israeli general and longtime director of the country’s spy agency. March 17.
Bob Ebeling, 89. Booster rocket engineer who spent decades filled with guilt over not stopping the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. March 21.
Andy Grove, 79. Former Intel Corp. chief executive whose youth under Nazi occupation and escape from the Iron Curtain inspired an “only the paranoid survive” management philosophy that saved the chip maker from financial ruin in the 1980s. March 21.
Rob Ford, 46. Pugnacious, populist former mayor of Toronto whose career crashed in a drug-driven, obscenity-laced debacle. March 22. Cancer.
Phife Dawg, 45. Lyricist whose witty wordplay was a linchpin of the groundbreaking hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. March 22. Complications from diabetes.
Garry Shandling, 66. Actor and comedian who masterminded a brand of phony docudrama with “The Larry Sanders Show.” March 24.
Earl Hamner Jr., 92. Prolific writer who drew upon his Depression-era upbringing in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to create one of television’s most beloved family shows, “The Waltons.” March 24.
Mother Mary Angelica, 92. Folksy Roman Catholic nun who used a monastery garage to begin a television ministry that grew into a global religious media empire. March 27.
Winston Moseley, 81. Man convicted of the 1964 stabbing death of Kitty Genovese, a crime that came to symbolize urban decay and indifference. March 28.
Patty Duke, 69. As a teen, she won an Oscar for playing Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker,” then maintained a long career while battling personal demons. March 29.
Hans-Dietrich Genscher, 89. Long-serving German foreign minister who was one of the key architects of the country’s 1990 reunification of east and west. March 31.
Imre Kertesz, 86. Hungarian writer who won the 2002 Nobel Prize for Literature for fiction largely drawn from his experience as a teenage prisoner in Nazi concentration camps. March 31.
Leandro “Gato” Barbieri, 83. Latin Jazz saxophonist who composed the Grammy-winning music for the steamy Marlon Brando film “Last Tango in Paris” and recorded dozens of albums over a career spanning more than seven decades. April 2.
Erik Bauersfeld, 93. He turned three words from a minor acting role – “It’s a trap!” – into one of the most beloved lines of the “Star Wars” series. April 3.
Merle Haggard, 79. Country giant who rose from poverty and prison to international fame through his songs about outlaws, underdogs and an abiding sense of national pride in such hits as “Okie From Muskogee” and “Sing Me Back Home.” April 6.
Howard Marks, 70. Convicted drug smuggler who reinvented himself as an author, raconteur and drug-reform campaigner after publishing the best-selling autobiography “Mr. Nice.” April 10.
David Gest, 62. Music producer, reality TV star and former husband of Liza Minnelli. April 12.
Fred Hayman, 90. Dapper entrepreneur and “Godfather of Rodeo Drive” whose vision transformed a nondescript Southern California street into one of the world’s pre-eminent fashion districts. April 14.
Doris Roberts, 90. She played the tart-tongued, endlessly meddling mother on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” April 17.
Patricio Aylwin, 97. Lanky law professor who played a decisive role in restoring Chile’s democracy after 17 years of brutal dictatorship and was later elected president. April 19.
Chyna, 46. Tall, muscle-bound, raven-haired pro-wrestler who rocketed to popularity in the 1990s and later made the rounds on reality TV. April 20.
Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, 52. Basketball player who went from New York City playground wonder to Big East star for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. April 20.
Victoria Wood, 62. British comedian who found humor in everyday life and blazed a trail for other female comics. April 20.
Prince, 57. One of the most inventive and influential musicians of modern times with hits including “Little Red Corvette,” ”Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry.” April 21.
Isabelle Dinoire, 49. Frenchwoman who received the world’s first partial face transplant. April 22.
Billy Paul, 80. Jazz and soul singer best known for the No. 1 hit ballad and “Philadelphia Soul” classic “Me and Mrs. Jones.” April 24.
Remo Belli, 88. Musician who pioneered the synthetic drumhead in time to help a generation of rock-and-rollers shape their sound and then saw it become standard on kits across genres. April 25.
Harry Wu, 79. Former political prisoner who dedicated his later life to exposing abuses in China’s brutal prison labor camp system. April 26.
Ozzie Silna, 83. He turned a fading American Basketball Association franchise into a four-decade windfall of nearly $800 million from the NBA in what’s commonly called the greatest deal in sports history. April 26.
Conrad Burns, 81. Former U.S. senator whose folksy demeanor and political acumen earned him three terms and the bitter disdain of his opponents. April 28.
Rev. Daniel Berrigan, 94. Roman Catholic priest and peace activist who was imprisoned for burning draft files in a protest against the Vietnam War. April 30.
Tommy Kono, 85. He took up weightlifting in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans and went on to win two Olympic gold medals for the United States. May 1.
Madeleine LeBeau, 92. French actress best known for her small but memorable role in “Casablanca” as Rick’s pushed aside girlfriend Yvonne who passionately sings “La Marseillaise” at a pivotal moment. May 1.
Afeni Shakur, 69. Former Black Panther who inspired the work of her son, rap icon Tupac Shakur, and fostered his legacy for decades after he was slain. May 2.
Carl Fredrik Reutersward, 81. One of Sweden’s best-known modern artists and the creator of the iconic statue of a revolver barrel tied in a knot. May 3.
Bob Bennett, 82. Former U.S. senator who shied away from the spotlight but earned a reputation as someone who knew how to get things done in Washington. May 4.
William Schallert, 93. Veteran performer and Hollywood union leader who played Patty Duke’s father – and uncle – on TV and led a long, contentious strike for actors. May 8.
Gene Gutowski, 90. Polish-American Holocaust survivor who was the producer of three films by director Roman Polanski in the 1960s and reunited with him decades later for the Oscar-winning Holocaust drama “The Pianist.” May 10.
Donnovan Hill, 18. California teenager whose paralyzing football injury led to increased safety protections for young players after he sued a youth league. May 11.
Samuel Gibson, 39. Diminutive New Zealand man who inspired many by defying the brittle bones he was born with and pursuing a life filled with rigorous outdoor adventures. May 16. Died after falling from wheelchair during half-marathon.
Guy Clark, 74. Texas singer-songwriter who helped mentor a generation of songwriters and wrote hits like “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperados Waiting for a Train.” May 17.
Morley Safer, 84. Veteran “60 Minutes” correspondent who was equally at home reporting on social injustices, the Orient Express and abstract art, and who exposed a military atrocity in Vietnam that played an early role in changing Americans’ view of the war. May 19.
Rosalie Chris Lerman, 90. Survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp who was the wife of the founder of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and a passionate advocate of Holocaust remembrance. May 19.
Alan Young, 96. Actor-comedian who played the amiable straight man to a talking horse in the 1960s sitcom “Mister Ed.” May 19.
Kang Sok Ju, 76. Top North Korean diplomat who negotiated a short-lived 1994 deal with the United States to freeze his nation’s nuclear programs in exchange for international aid. May 20.
Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour, believed to be in his mid-50s. His brief rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan was marked by mistrust and strife. May 20. Killed in a drone strike.
Thomas E. Schaefer, 85. Retired Air Force colonel who was the ranking military officer among the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days before being released in 1981. May 31.
Muhammad Ali, 74. Heavyweight champion whose fast fists, irrepressible personality and determined spirit transcended sports and captivated the world. June 3.
Peter Shaffer, 90. British playwright whose durable, award-winning hits included “Equus” and “Amadeus.” June 6.
Victor Korchnoi, 85. Chess grandmaster and former Soviet champion who defected to the West and was considered among the best players never to win a world championship. June 6.
Kimbo Slice, 42. Bearded street fighter who parlayed his Internet popularity into a mixed martial arts career. June 6.
Theresa Saldana, 61. “Raging Bull” actress who survived a stalker’s brutal attack to become a crime victims’ advocate and reclaimed her entertainment career with “The Commish” and other TV shows. June 6.
Gordie Howe, 88. Known as “Mr. Hockey,” the rough-and-tumble Canadian farm boy whose blend of talent and toughness made him the NHL’s quintessential star. June 10.
Margaret Vinci Heldt, 98. She became a hairstyling celebrity after she created the beehive hairdo in 1960. June 10.
George Voinovich, 79. Former U.S. senator and a two-term Ohio governor who preached frugality in his personal and public life and occasionally bucked the GOP establishment. June 12.
Lois Duncan, 82. Known for her pioneering suspense novels that captivated young readers, including “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which became a movie. June 15.
Jo Cox, 41. Lawmaker who campaigned for Britain to stay in the European Union. June 16. Killed by a gun- and knife-wielding attacker.
Anton Yelchin, 27. Rising actor best known for playing Chekov in the new “Star Trek” films. June 19. Hit by his car in his driveway.
Wayne Jackson, 74. Trumpet player on rock ‘n’ roll, soul, R&B and pop mainstays along with Memphis Horns partner and tenor saxophonist Andrew Love. June 21.
David Jonathan Thatcher, 94. Member of the Doolittle Raiders, who bombed Japan in an attack that stunned that nation and boosted U.S. morale during World War II. June 22.
John Ashe, 61. Former U.N. General Assembly president who was facing criminal charges in a bribery case. June 22.
Michael Herr, 76. Author and Oscar-nominated screenplay writer who viscerally documented the ravages of the Vietnam War through his classic nonfiction novel “Dispatches” and through such films as “Apocalypse Now” and “Full Metal Jacket.” June 23.
Bernie Worrell, 72. “Wizard of Woo” whose amazing array of keyboard sounds helped define the Parliament-Funkadelic musical empire and influenced performers of many genres. June 24.
Bud Spencer, 86. Burly comic actor dubbed the “good giant” for punching out bad guys on the screen, often in a long series of spaghetti westerns. June 27.
Alvin Toffler, 87. Guru of the post-industrial age whose “Future Shock” and other books anticipated the disruptions and transformations brought about by the rise of digital technology. June 27.
Isak Chishi Swu, 87. Militant leader of the Naga tribal insurgency in India. June 28.
Pat Summitt, 64. Winningest coach in Division I college basketball history who uplifted the women’s game from obscurity to national prominence during her 38-year career at Tennessee. June 28.
Elie Wiesel, 87. Romanian-born Holocaust survivor whose classic “Night” became a landmark testament to the Nazis’ crimes and launched his career as one of the world’s foremost witnesses and humanitarians. July 2.
Michael Cimino, 77. Oscar-winning director whose film “The Deer Hunter” became one of the great triumphs of Hollywood’s 1970s heyday and whose disastrous “Heaven’s Gate” helped bring that era to a close. July 2.
Jack C. Taylor, 94. He started a leasing company with seven cars and built it into Enterprise Rent-A-Car. July 2.
Abbas Kiarostami, 76. Iranian director whose 1997 film “Taste of Cherry” won the prestigious Palme d’Or and who kept working despite government resistance. July 4.
William L. Armstrong, 79. Colorado media executive who became a major conservative voice in the Senate. July 5.
Abdul Sattar Edhi, 88. Pakistan’s legendary philanthropist who devoted his life to the poor and the destitute. July 8.
Sydney H. Schanberg, 82. Former New York Times correspondent awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the genocide in Cambodia in 1975 and whose story of the survival of his assistant inspired the film “The Killing Fields.” July 9.
Bernardo Provenzano, 83. Convicted Cosa Nostra “boss of bosses” who reputedly led the Mafia’s powerful Corleone clan. July 13.
Nate Thurmond, 74. Tenacious NBA defensive center who played with Wilt Chamberlain. July 16.
Alan Vega, 78. Punk pioneer who helped form the duo Suicide, widely regarded as a forerunner of punk and electronic music. July 16.
Wendell Anderson, 83. Former Minnesota governor and ex-Olympian described in a 1973 Time magazine cover article as the youthful embodiment of his home state only to lose public confidence later by arranging his own appointment to the U.S. Senate. July 17.
Clown Dimitri, 80. Beloved Swiss clown and mime over nearly six decades who studied under Marcel Marceau and spread smiles from Broadway to Congo. July 19.
Mark Takai, 49. U.S. representative, war veteran and long-time legislator known for his bright nature and deep commitment to service. July 20. Pancreatic cancer.
Thomas Sutherland, 85. Teacher who was held captive in Lebanon for more than six years until he was freed in 1991 and returned home to become professor emeritus at Colorado State University. July 22.
Marni Nixon, 86. Hollywood voice double whose singing was heard in place of the leading actresses’ in such movie musicals as “West Side Story,” ”The King and I” and “My Fair Lady.” July 24.
Rev. Tim LaHaye, 90. Co-author of the “Left Behind” series, a multimillion-selling literary juggernaut that brought end-times prophecy into mainstream bookstores. July 25.
Sam Wheeler, 72. Renowned land speed motorcycle racer. July 25. Injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash.
Youree Dell Harris, 53. Actress who became famous playing the Jamaican psychic Miss Cleo, claiming to know callers’ futures in ubiquitous TV infomercials and commercials. July 26.
Gloria DeHaven, 91. Daughter of vaudeville stars who carved out her own career as the vivacious star of Hollywood musicals and comedies of the 1940s and ’50s. July 30.
Anne of Romania, 92. Wife of Romania’s last monarch, King Michael. Aug. 1.
Ahmed Zewail, 70. Science adviser to President Obama who won the 1999 Nobel Prize for his work on the study of chemical reactions over short time scales. Aug. 2.
Pete Fountain, 86. Clarinetist whose Dixieland jazz virtuosity and wit endeared him to his native New Orleans and earned him national television fame. Aug. 6.
Helen Delich Bentley, 92. Former Maryland congresswoman who was an expert on the maritime industry. Aug. 6.
Robert Kiley, 80. He is credited with revitalizing and modernizing public transportation networks in Boston, New York and London. Aug. 9.
Harry Briggs Jr., 75. As a young boy, he was at the center of a lawsuit that culminated with the U.S. Supreme Court outlawing segregated public schools. Aug. 9.
Kenny Baker, 81. He played the lovable droid R2-D2 in the “Star Wars” films, achieving cult status and fans’ adulation without showing his face or speaking any lines. Aug. 13.
Fyvush Finkel, 93. Plastic-faced Emmy Award-winning actor whose career in stage and screen started in Yiddish theater and led to memorable roles in “Fiddler on the Roof” on Broadway and on TV in “Boston Public” and “Picket Fences.” Aug. 14.
Bobby Hutcherson, 75. Bricklayer’s son who became one of the most inventive jazz vibraphonists to pick up a pair of mallets. Aug. 15.
Joao Havelange, 100. President of FIFA for two decades, who transformed soccer’s governing body into a multibillion-dollar business but also a hotbed for subsequent corruption. Aug. 16.
John McLaughlin, 89. Conservative commentator and host of a long-running television show that pioneered hollering-heads discussions of Washington politics. Aug. 16.
Arthur Hiller, 92. Oscar nominee for directing the hugely popular romantic tragedy “Love Story” during a career that spanned dozens of popular movies and TV shows. Aug. 17.
John W. Vessey, 94. Army general who rose in a 46-year military career to become chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and helped oversee Reagan’s military buildup. Aug. 18.
Jay Fishman, 63. Former Travelers Group insurance company chief executive who became a national advocate for research into Lou Gehrig’s disease after being diagnosed with it. Aug. 19.
Donald “D.A.” Henderson, 87. Epidemiologist whose leadership resulted in the eradication nearly 40 years ago of smallpox, one of the world’s most feared contagious diseases. Aug. 19.
Toots Thielemans, 94. Belgian harmonica player whose career included playing with jazz greats like Miles Davis and whose solos have figured on numerous film scores. Aug. 22.
Walter Scheel, 97. He helped shape West Germany’s policy of reconciliation with the communist bloc as foreign minister and later served as his country’s president. Aug. 24.
Sonia Rykiel, 86. French designer dubbed the “queen of knitwear” whose relaxed sweaters in berry-colored stripes and eye-popping motifs helped liberate women from stuffy suits. Aug. 25.
Gene Wilder, 83. Frizzy-haired actor who brought his deft comedic touch to such unforgettable roles as the neurotic accountant in “The Producers” and the mad scientist of “Young Frankenstein.” Aug. 28.
Juan Gabriel, 66. Mexican songwriter and singer who was an icon in the Latin music world. Aug. 28.
Harry Fujiwara, 82. Better known as Mr. Fuji, he was a former star wrestler and manager. Aug. 28.
Vera Caslavska, 74. Seven-time Olympic gymnastics gold medalist who stood up against the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Aug. 30.
Jon Polito, 65. Raspy-voiced actor whose 200-plus credits ranged from “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “Modern Family” to the films “Barton Fink” and “The Big Lebowski.” Sept. 1.
Sam Iacobellis, 87. Rockwell International engineer who met President Ronald Reagan’s challenge to deliver 100 B-1 bombers as fast as possible in the early 1980s to challenge the Soviet Union. Sept. 3.
Hugh O’Brian, 91. He shot to fame as Sheriff Wyatt Earp in what was hailed as television’s first adult Western. Sept. 5.
Phyllis Schlafly, 92. Outspoken conservative activist who helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and founded the Eagle Forum political group. Sept. 5.
Bobby Chacon, 64. Hall of Fame boxer whose memorable fights included victories over Rafael “Bazooka” Limon, Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Danny Lopez and Ruben Olivares. Sept. 7.
Greta Zimmer Friedman, 92. Believed to be the woman in an iconic photo shown kissing an ecstatic sailor in Times Square celebrating the end of World War II. Sept. 8.
Johan Botha, 51. Tenor whose light but muscular voice dazzled audiences at the world’s top operatic stages. Sept. 8.
Lady Chablis, 59. Transgender performer who became a celebrity for her role in the 1994 best-seller “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Sept. 8.
Jack Hofsiss, 65. Stage and screen director who won a Tony Award in his first outing on Broadway while helming “The Elephant Man” and kept working despite an accident that left him without the use of his arms and legs. Sept. 13.
Rose Mofford, 94. Arizona’s first female governor and a shepherd for the state during a period of political turbulence. Sept. 15.
Edward Albee, 88. Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who challenged theatrical convention in masterworks such as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “A Delicate Balance.” Sept. 16.
W.P. Kinsella, 81. Canadian novelist who blended magical realism and baseball in the book that became the smash hit film “Field of Dreams.” Sept. 16.
Charmian Carr, 73. Actress best known for sweetly portraying the eldest von Trapp daughter in “The Sound of Music.” Sept. 17.
Rose Pak, 68. Brash community activist who helped transform San Francisco’s growing Asian American population into a politically powerful constituency. Sept. 18.
Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr., 68. Musician who rose from a cotton-picking family in southwest Louisiana to introduce zydeco music to the world through his band Buckwheat Zydeco. Sept. 24.
Arnold Palmer, 87. Golfing great who brought a country-club sport to the masses with a hard-charging style, charisma and a commoner’s touch. Sept. 25.
Jean Shepard, 82. “The grand lady of the Grand Ole Opry” who had a long recording career in country music. Sept. 25.
Ben Steele, 98. Bataan Death March survivor whose art helped him maintain his sanity as a prisoner of war and helped him forgive his captors. Sept. 25.
Curtis Roosevelt, 86. He lived in the White House as a child when his grandfather, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was president and worked for two decades at the United Nations. Sept. 26.
Shimon Peres, 93. Former Israeli president and prime minister, whose life story mirrored that of the Jewish state and who was celebrated around the world as a Nobel prize-winning visionary who pushed his country toward peace. Sept. 28.
Joan Marie Johnson, 72. A founding member of the New Orleans girl group The Dixie Cups, who had a No. 1 hit in 1964 with “Chapel of Love.” Oct. 3.
Jacob Neusner, 84. He transformed the study of American Judaism, becoming one of the most influential 20th-century scholars of the religion. Oct. 8.
Aaron Pryor, 60. Relentless junior welterweight who fought two memorable bouts with Alexis Arguello. Oct. 9.
Andrzej Wajda, 90. Poland’s leading filmmaker whose career maneuvering between a repressive communist government and an audience yearning for freedom won him international recognition and an honorary Oscar. Oct. 9.
Donn Fendler, 90. As a boy, he survived nine days alone on Maine’s tallest mountain in 1939 and later wrote a book about the ordeal. Oct. 10.
Dario Fo, 90. Italian playwright whose energetic mocking of Italian political life, social mores and religion won him praise, scorn and the Nobel Prize for Literature. Oct. 13.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88. World’s longest reigning monarch, he was revered in Thailand as a demigod, a humble father figure and an anchor of stability through decades of upheaval at home and abroad. Oct. 13.
Dennis Byrd, 51. Former NFL defensive lineman whose career was ended by neck injury. Oct. 15. Car accident.
Junko Tabei, 77. The first woman to climb Mount Everest. Oct. 20.
Tom Hayden, 76. 1960s antiwar activist whose name became forever linked with the Chicago 7 trial, Vietnam War protests and his ex-wife, actress Jane Fonda. Oct. 23.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, 84. Former emir of Qatar who was deposed by his son in a bloodless palace coup. Oct. 23.
Jack T. Chick, 92. His cartoon tracts preached fundamentalist Christianity while vilifying secular society, evolution, homosexuality, and the beliefs of Catholics and Muslims. Oct. 23.
Bobby Vee, 73. Boyish, grinning 1960s singer whose career was born when he took a stage as a teenager to fill in after the 1959 plane crash that killed rock ‘n’ roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Oct. 24.
Jorge Batlle, 88. Former president was a force in Uruguayan politics for half a century, who led the nation during one of its worst economic recessions. Oct. 24.
Robert A. Hoover, 94. World War II fighter pilot who became an aviation legend for his flying skills in testing aircraft and demonstrating their capabilities in air shows. Oct. 25.
Norman R. Brokaw, 89. Talent agent who represented Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood and other top Hollywood stars. Oct. 29.
Jean-Jacques Perrey, 87. French composer and pioneer of electronic pop music who was best known for co-writing “Baroque Hoedown,” used as the music for the Main Street Electrical Parade at Disney theme parks. Nov. 4.
Janet Reno, 78. First woman to serve as U.S. attorney general and the epicenter of several political storms during the Clinton administration, including the seizure of Elian Gonzalez. Nov. 7.
Leonard Cohen, 82. Baritone-voiced Canadian singer-songwriter who blended spirituality and sexuality in songs like “Hallelujah,” ”Suzanne” and “Bird on a Wire.” Nov. 7.
Robert Vaughn, 83. Debonair, Oscar-nominated actor whose many film roles were eclipsed by his hugely popular turn in television’s “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” Nov. 11.
Gwen Ifill, 61. Co-anchor of PBS’ “NewsHour” with Judy Woodruff and a veteran journalist who moderated two vice presidential debates. Nov. 14.
Holly Dunn, 59. Country singer who had a hit in 1986 with “Daddy’s Hands,” about her minister father. Nov. 14.
Mose Allison, 89. Pianist and singer whose witty, Southern-accented lyrics delivered over a backdrop of boogie-woogie blues and jazz piano influenced musicians across a wide spectrum. Nov. 15.
Anthony Brooklier, 70. Los Angeles lawyer whose clients included “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss and his own mob-boss father. Nov. 15.
Melvin Laird, 94. Former Wisconsin congressman and U.S. defense secretary during years when President Richard Nixon sought a way to withdraw troops from Vietnam. Nov. 16.
Mentor Williams, 70. Award-winning songwriter behind the 1970s hit “Drift Away,” which became a soulful rock ‘n’ roll anthem aired on radio stations for generations. Nov. 16.
Denton Cooley, 96. Cardiovascular surgeon who performed some of the nation’s first heart transplants and implanted the world’s first artificial heart. Nov. 18.
Sharon Jones, 60. Powerhouse who shepherded a soul revival despite not finding stardom until middle age. Nov. 18. Cancer.
Ralph Branca, 90. Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who gave up the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” that still echoes six decades later as one of the most famous home runs in baseball history. Nov. 23.
Florence Henderson, 82. Broadway star who became one of America’s most beloved television moms in “The Brady Bunch.” Nov. 24.
Fidel Castro, 90. He led his bearded rebels to victorious revolution in 1959, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of U.S. presidents during his half-century of rule in Cuba. Nov. 25.
Fritz Weaver, 90. Tony Award-winning actor who played Sherlock Holmes and Shakespearian kings on Broadway while also creating memorable roles on TV and film from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” to “Marathon Man.” Nov. 26.
Michael James “Jim” Delligatti, 98. McDonald’s franchisee who created the Big Mac nearly 50 years ago and saw it become perhaps the best-known fast-food sandwich. Nov. 28.
Grant Tinker, 90. He brought new polish to the TV world with beloved shows including “Hill Street Blues” as both a producer and a network boss. Nov. 28.
Jayaram Jayalalithaa, 68. South Indian actress who turned to politics and became the highest elected official in the state of Tamil Nadu. Dec. 4.
John Glenn, 95. His 1962 flight as the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth made him an all-American hero and propelled him to a long career in the U.S. Senate. Dec. 8.
Esma Redzepova, 73. One of the most powerful voices in the world of Gypsy music. Dec. 11.
Joe Ligon, 80. Singer and dynamic frontman of the Grammy-winning gospel group Mighty Clouds of Joy. Dec. 11.
E.R. Braithwaite, 104. Guyanese author, educator and diplomat whose years teaching in the slums of London’s East End inspired the international best-seller “To Sir, With Love” and the movie of the same name. Dec. 12.
Alan Thicke, 69. Versatile performer who gained his greatest renown as the beloved dad on the sitcom “Growing Pains.” Dec. 13.
Over the last decade, Milwaukee-based artist Gabriel Sanchez has strutted on stage and performed the brilliant works of the legendary Prince — curled wig, ruffled shirt, guitar solos, and all — as part of “The Prince Experience.” In re-creating the experience of Prince in his more sexualized heyday of the mid-1980s, he’s able to prove the sound of Prince is immortal, even after we’ve lost the artist himself.
Sanchez’s portrayal feels almost uncomfortably close to the Purple One himself in the months since Prince’s unexpected death in April at the age of 57. Despite that, he says he started donning violet by chance.
“Basically a friend of mine was involved with a local theater and they wanted to do Purple Rain live as a play,” Sanchez says. “He approached me about it and at first I said no. I’ve never acted before and at that point, never learned how to play Prince music. … I told him, ‘Tell me when you guys are doing it. I’ll buy tickets. I love Prince and I love that movie. … (but) I can’t do that. There’s no way. It sounds too hard.’”
Sanchez says his friend eventually wore him down, which left only the monumental task of becoming Price. Despite growing up with rock, funk and R&B practically a part of his DNA — having learned to play guitar, drums and keyboards as well as write his own music already — Sanchez says he had a tough time trying to copy Prince. After a few runs of Prince’s hits on repeat, he felt comfortable covering the wide vocal range utilized in Prince songs, but the dancing was a completely different story.
“That was kind of the funny part because I’m really shy when it comes to actually dancing in front of people and my whole entire family knew that,” Sanchez said. “I knew I could dance sexually, but I did it behind closed doors like when I was at home by myself getting ready and when I had music on. When I did it live, my family thought that was so funny and said, ‘We didn’t know you could do that!’”
With the vocals learned and the embarrassment of dancing on stage conquered, Sanchez had just one challenge left: mastering the iconic guitar solos.
“Back then I was more of a rhythm player so I had to actually learn all the guitar solos,” Sanchez said. “Someone told me, ‘If you can’t play the solos, we’ll have someone on the side of the stage and we’ll have them play and you fake it.’ I said, ‘Nope. Then I won’t do it.’ It just didn’t feel right. I worked really hard and learned the solos, learned the vocals, and watched (Purple Rain) over and over and over again so I could study the way he moved just to get the essence of him.”
After the play was over that weekend, the reaction was so huge that Sanchez had no other choice other than to keep The Prince Experience going. Gathering top-notch local musicians, Sanchez has spent more than a decade creating a show that he describes as high-energy, sexual and fun — more than just a random tribute performance.
To Sanchez, all that effort is worth it for an artist he considers one of the greatest of all time.
“I think it’s such real music,” Sanchez says. “It comes from a talent with a soul. … There are some songs that sound like they were thrown onto the table to make a hit song. His are more than that. They’re deeper than that. His songs will live on forever.”
Sanchez says he was as blindsided as anyone by the news of Prince’s death several months ago. “I thought it was a hoax,” he says. “I thought, ‘This is not real.'” For him, realization came as local news stations began calling — having been associated with the artist for more than 10 years, he was an obvious person to call for comment — and texts started to pour in.
The news came with a sudden surge of interest in The Prince Experience, and now that he’s had time to process things, Sanchez is satisfying demand. His original plans for the year were to perform under his own name, having booked a gig at Turner Hall in January as a release party for his first album Immortal By Sound. Instead, he’s personifying Prince again, and keeping the spirit and sound of the legend alive.
His appearance at PrideFest will mark one of the first times Sanchez has performed his expanded show, having secured a two-hour timeslot double his usual set. Rather than stay exclusively within the mid-1980s period he’s specialized in, Sanchez will add in music from the back half of Prince’s career — maybe even ditching the iconic curled wig and ruffled shirt.
“I’m thinking about doing the post-Purple Rain look as well with the shorter hair and the different outfits and doing other songs,” Sanchez said. “I don’t want to do just the hits and that’s it. Everybody plays ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ and ‘Purple Rain.’ We play those songs really, really well, but it would be even better with more songs included. The show’s going to keep evolving and I want to build this huge catalogue so it’s not the same show every time.”
One day, Sanchez will have to call his time with The Prince Experience quits. But he’s confident that Prince’s sound will live on long after he puts down his guitar.
Not, of course, that that’s any reason to miss his turn to bring Prince’s sound to life.
In September 2014, Associated Press Global Entertainment Editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody spent a day with Prince at Paisley Park.
The following story was originally published on Sept. 29, 2014:
Nightfall is fast approaching at Paisley Park.
There are few lights on in the cavernous compound, and unseen doves (of course there would be doves) are cooing up a racket before twilight fades to darkness. But even their collective noise takes a back seat once Prince — sitting in the dimmest bit of light — goes to his Mac, cues up a track and hits play.
A melodious instrumental track floods the room, the lush orchestration compliments of the Minnesota Orchestra, whom Prince tapped to perform. Its inspiration has come from a little-heard Dionne Warwick song, “In Between the Heartaches,” which he also played moments earlier.
The track remains a work in progress; Prince has written no lyrics yet. But it’s music like this that keeps him going — to still, after all these years, take music to the next level.
“If you don’t try, how will you get another ‘Insatiable?’” he says, referencing his classic bedroom groove.
Over the next few moments at Prince’s computer, he goes to YouTube to play an array clips that get his musical heart thrumming, dipping from old James Brown clips to the relatively new U.K. singer FKA Twigs.
Prince isn’t always pleased about what he hears from today’s crop of entertainers — “The quality of the music, everyone would agree is not the gold standard,” he muses about today’s mainstream pop universe.
But when it comes to his world, what he’s hearing ranks among the best that he’s heard in ages. On Tuesday, he will release his first album in four years, “ART OFFICAL AGE,” along with music from his latest protege act, 3RDEYEGIRL, “PLECTRUMELECTRUM.”
“I’m completely surrounded by equal talent,” an energized Prince says. “To me it feels like heaven.”
It’s not just the music that’s taking his Royal Badness to new heights: For the first time, he is releasing his music with complete freedom. The man that once wrote “slave” on his face in protest of not being in control of his own music and famously battled and then departed his label, Warner Bros., is now back with the label — under his own terms.
“What’s happening now is the position that I’ve always wanted to be in,” says Prince. “I was just trying to get here.”
In the spring, Prince, 56, finally gained what he had sought for more than two decades — control of his musical masters, and, in a larger sense, his musical legacy. In the past, Warner Bros. held the rights to Prince’s music, even long after he left, as part of the contract he signed as a new artist.
But after savvy legal maneuvering, he owns the rights to all of his vast collections of hits, including archival music that Prince fans have been longing to hear for decades. Prince also gained control of the publishing rights to his compositions and has performance rights — which means he completely controls his own musical destiny.
Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, who works closely with Prince on legal, business and financial matters, calls it his “fight for justice” and an enormous game-changer for the industry.
“It’s magnificent, and what’s important for him, he wants all musicians to have (this),” she said. “This is just something that he feels incredibly passionate about.”
Long a trailblazer for artists’ rights, and for coming up with innovative approaches to break away from the label-structure that he’s viewed as unfair to artists, he sees the way the industry has unfolded as the ultimate “I told you so”: disappearing labels, a streaming system that some music acts say nets them even less profit for the music they made, and increasing challenge to make money just off of making music.
He scoffs at the image of him that had long been defined by others; a technology-phobe who resisted what was to come in the industry, like that persistent notion that he once declared the Internet dead.
“We were saying it was dead to us — dead energy,” he explains.
For Prince, the old Tribe Called Quest rhyme still rings true: “Industry rule number four thousand and eighty, record company people are shady.” He speaks passionately of his disdain for traditional record contracts and publishing agreements that he believes give most of the power — and profit — to other entities, not the creator of the music.
He considers it not only bad business, but also against God: “The Bible says you’re not supposed to sign your inheritance away.”
The entry of Apple as the major player in music hasn’t helped, in his view. When asked about U2’s much analyzed venture with Apple _ in which the company paid them for their latest album, then released it in its customers’ iTunes libraries for free _ Prince simply says. “That’s a designer deal. … Of course they got paid. But what about the others?”
Prince is hoping to show artists that there is an alternative to the standard way of doing business. Paisley Park is not just a place for Prince, but also a creative sandbox for other artists.
Liv Warfield is one: The boisterous soul singer with the big band and dynamic stage act worked under Prince’s tutelage for her latest album, and has opened for Prince on tour; “The Voice” contestant Judith Hill has come through. At one point, he plays a track by a powerful female voice that turns out to be Rita Ora. Jennifer Hudson will be making a Paisley Park pilgrimage soon, he says.
“How we make music is in a collective,” he says, with the motto: “Best idea wins.”
This spring, he launched NPG Publishing; besides administering his own music, it will do so for other acts.
But he’s quick to note that he doesn’t have artists signed to him.
“We don’t do (record) deals,” says Prince. “I don’t want anything from anybody.”
Joshua Welton, a young producer who is married to drummer Hanna Ford Welton of 3RDEYEGIRL (Donna Grantis and Ida Nielsen round out the trio), is one of the fresh new talents that Prince marvels at; he refers to him as a “Steve Jobs” and marvels not only at his musical might, but also his spiritual strength.
His faith in Welton is so strong that he shares productions with him on the album, and says for the first time, there are tracks where Prince doesn’t even play an instrument, leaving it to Welton.
“Who would have predicted that I would let a 22-, 23-year-old produce me?” says Prince (though he’s actually 24). “He’s supertalented.”
For Prince, success today is about audience impact and, as always, taking success to the next level.
He’s not looking for a repeat of 1984: “I don’t need another gold record,” he says matter of factly (though for the record, that was the year of many platinum records).
Nor does he care about charting No. 1 songs or hits. When he explains why he isn’t, he takes it back to Africa and says that’s not the community’s way of thinking: “You don’t quantify success by numbers.”
He’s working on a rerelease of the epic “Purple Rain” album for its 30th anniversary, but when asked if he’s excited about it, he flatly says no.
“Same album, just state-of-the-art sound,” he says. “It’s nice that it sounds better for the fans but I live in the now. I don’t have to go backwards to celebrate.”
He had no hesitation about working with Warner Bros again (after entering what Lamkins-Ellis called an “amazing deal”): “I don’t deal in history nor should they,” he says. “It’s not the entity that’s the problem.”
Prince isn’t stopping with the two new albums and the “Purple Rain” rerelease: His song “Funknroll” is being used by NFL network, and he’s excited about new avenues for his music.
You’ll find his new music on iTunes, and Spotify, but he doesn’t see anything contradictory in that. “It’s about the deal. Anything I’m doing now it’s equitable. I’m happy.”
He adds: “I just thank God that I’m here now.”
Prince, the innovative music superstar whose hits included “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” and whose songwriting and eccentric stage presence electrified fans around the world, died on April 21 in Minnesota, his publicist said. He was 57.
“It is with profound sadness that I am confirming that the legendary, iconic performer, Prince Rogers Nelson, has died,” said publicist Anna Meacham.
Prince was found dead at his home at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, a Minneapolis suburb, the Carver County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter. The office said it was “investigating the circumstances of his death.”
The local medical examiner declined to comment on the cause of Prince’s death, which was first reported by celebrity website TMZ.
Shocked fans gathered with media crews outside Paisley Park Studios’ gates to mourn the award-winning singer and musician, whose genre-defying music combined jazz, funk and disco, and influenced other musicians. His hit songs also included “Raspberry Beret,” “Little Red Corvette” and “Kiss.”
Prince, who was on a U.S. tour last week, was briefly hospitalized with the flu after his plane made an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois, last week, TMZ reported. A representative told TMZ that Prince had performed in Atlanta even though he was not feeling well and felt worse after boarding the plane for a flight back to Minnesota.
Prince first found fame in the late 1970s, and over the next three decades became known as one of the most inventive and eccentric forces in American pop music.
Often making a statement with bold fashion choices, the diminutive star sometimes appeared on stage sporting ruffled shirts and tight pants or elaborate costumes, including chain mail covering his face, a shimmery orange tunic or bikini briefs.
Prince was regarded as a perfectionist who from 1993 to 2000 changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in what was seen as a protest against his record label at the time.
For a while, he was dubbed “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.”
An intensely private person, Prince sold more than 100 million records during his career, won seven Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
His most recent album, “HITnRUN: Phase Two” was released in December 2015.
Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness about 15 years ago, and was a strict vegan. In 2009, he spoke in a PBS television interview about being born an epileptic and suffering seizures as a child.
He said he was also teased in school, and that “early in my career I tried to compensate by being as flashy as I could and as noisy as I could.”
Prince won an Oscar for best original song score for “Purple Rain,” the 1984 movie whose music was based on his album of the same name. He also starred in the movie.
In 2007, he played the Super Bowl in one of the most celebrated such performances.
While he was more accustomed to performing to arena audiences, two years ago Prince played perhaps his most intimate gig in the living room of British singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas’ London home with his band, 3rdeyegirl, Billboard said.
“We’ll work our way up, if people like us, to bigger venues,” Prince quipped at the time.
Born in Minneapolis as Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958, he is said to have written his first song at the age of 7. As well as singing and writing, he played multiple instruments, including guitar, keyboards and drums.
His music was marked by sexually charged lyrics and explosive live performances, while his private life was marked by a string of romances linking him with the likes of Madonna and actress Kim Basinger and Carmen Electra.
Prince was married twice: to his backup singer, Mayte Garcia, in 1996 and then to Manuela Testolini in 2001. Both marriages ended in divorce, and a son he had with Garcia died a week after birth in October 1996.
Music TV channel MTV said it was changing its logo to purple for the day in honor of Prince. Twitter lit up with reaction from dismayed friends and fans.
“And just like that … the world lost a lot of magic ✨ Rest in peace Prince! Thanks for giving us so much,” tweeted pop star Katy Perry.
Film director Spike Lee said on Twitter: “I Miss My Brother. Prince Was A Funny Cat. Great Sense Of Humor.”
“This is what it sounds like when doves cry.. Prince R.I.P.,” tweeted actress and TV personality Whoopi Goldberg.
Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, and Frank McGurty, Amy Tennery and Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis.
After spending evenings reinterpreting the works of musicians like Stephen Foster, Marvin Gaye, Patti Smith and Quincy Jones, Alverno Presents is turning its eye on the iconic, mononymous Prince. Under the guidance of minimalist folk band Hello Death, a collection of Milwaukee artists will “uncover” songs from Prince’s discography, re-interpreting them in new and unexpected ways.
At the Pitman Theatre, 3431 S. 39th St., Milwaukee. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at alvernopresents.alverno.edu.
8 p.m. Oct. 17
After a third-grader tearfully recounted how another boy had called him “gay” during gym class, teacher Omar Currie chose to raise the issue during story time by reading his students a fable about a prince who falls in love with another prince, ending with a happily-ever-after royal wedding.
That decision in April ignited a public outcry from some parents in the rural hamlet of Efland, North Carolina, resulting in Currie’s resignation this week from a job he loved. The assistant principal who loaned Currie her copy of “King & King” has also resigned, and outraged parents are pressuring administrators at the Orange County Schools to ban the book.
“When I read the story, the reaction of parents didn’t come into my mind,” Currie, 25, said. “In that moment, it just seemed natural to me to read the book and have a conversation about treating people with respect. My focus then was on the child, and helping the child.”
Currie knows firsthand what it is like to be bullied. Growing up gay and black in a small town in the eastern part of the state, his memories of middle school are of being a frequent target for teasing and slurs.
As a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Currie entered a teaching fellows program with the intent of helping young people. He was first introduced to “King & King” during an education course that included strategies for introducing topics involving diversity in the classroom.
After graduation, Currie became a teacher at nearby Efland-Cheeks Elementary School. Though only about 15 miles west of Chapel Hill, a college town considered among the most liberal enclaves in the state, Efland is a socially conservative community of about 750 people where churches line the highway through town.
Within hours after reading the book to his students, Currie said he got a call from the school’s principal requesting a meeting in her office for the following morning. The parents of three children soon filed written complaints to a school review committee, which twice upheld the use of the book after heated public meetings. But the school’s principal also issued a new directive that teachers must submit an advance list of all books they intend to read with students to their parents.
“King & King” has been a subject of controversy before. In 2006, the parents of a Massachusetts second-grader sued after the book was read in their child’s class. A federal judge later ruled against them, saying the rights of parents to exercise their religious and moral beliefs are not violated when children are exposed to differing ideas in public school.
In his two years at Efland elementary, Currie said his sexual orientation had never been an issue. His co-workers, and some parents, knew he lives with his male partner.
But at the committee meetings to discuss Currie’s use of the book, some parents whose children were not in his class made their attacks personal, telling him he would die young and spend eternity in hell. He also began receiving hate-filled letters and emails, including one copied to other teachers at the school, described homosexuality as a “birth defect” while accusing Currie of trying to “indoctrinate” children through “psycho-emotional rape.”
Though he says administrators never formally disciplined him for his decision to read the book, Currie said he was made to feel that he had done something wrong and felt pressured to leave the school. He is currently looking for another teaching job.
A spokesman for the Orange County Schools said that Interim Superintendent Pam Jones was not available for an interview.
Meg Goodhand, the assistant principal who resigned after loaning Currie the book, also declined to comment.
The decision to allow “King & King” in the classroom has now been appealed to the district level.
Currie plans to attend and says he will speak out.
“I’m resigning because when me and my partner sat down and talked about it we felt I wasn’t going to have the support I needed to move forward at Efland,” he said. “It’s very disappointing.”
Janelle Monae finally gave birth this week. No, it wasn’t a little baby, but a bundle of music that she says was just as labor-intensive.
“I just feel like this is a baby and I’m ready to have a C-section or this baby is ready to come,” Monae said of “The Electric Lady,” released Sept. 10.
Monae’s sophomore effort comes three years after her critically acclaimed full-length debut, “The ArchAndroid.”
The lyrics “Electric Lady” have sitrred speculation that she’s coming out as gay. But she denied that’s the case in an interview with Billboard, while still offering support to her gay fans.
The new album is a departure for the 27-year-old, who collaborates with Prince (“Givin Em What They Love”), Miguel (“Primetime”) and Erykah Badu (“Q.U.E.E.N.”) on the 19-track set.
“None of it was for politics,” she said of the guest artists, who also include Esperanza Spalding and Solange. “These guys are writing their own music; in control of their futures … they do what they feel on their own terms and time.”
In an interview with The Associated Press, Monae, who is based in Atlanta, talked about working with Prince, being in therapy and how her dreams helped her create the songs that make up “The Electric Lady,” co-executive produced by Diddy and Big Boi of OutKast.
Your albums follow the story of Cindi Mayweather, an android who falls in love with a human and she’s being punished for that. What’s happening with her on “The Electric Lady”?
This is her life before she became the ArchAndroid, what the community thought about her, what her thoughts were, what got her into trouble (and) why they wanted to dissemble her.
Are you Cindi?
We share the same DNA.
Who influenced the album?
George Lucas. I performed at his wedding reception. … I met him and I got a chance to speak with Steven Spielberg, and these are people whose ideas, you know, if they weren’t able to make their movies, I don’t think that I would have been able to articulate my thoughts on Cindi. … They kind of showed me how to do that, I just wanted to do it with music.
How did you come up with the songs for the new album?
The concept for that album didn’t come to me until I went on tour and I started to paint, and I would sing and paint at the same time. I would paint the silhouette of this female body … and I didn’t quite understand why I was painting this woman. I actually was a little freaked out by it. So I went back to Atlanta and I talked to my therapist, and she encouraged me, she said, ‘You should name her. Name her.’ And I did.
Were you in therapy for a specific reason?
All around. I find it very helpful. It helps with my songwriting because once I am talking to somebody and I’m getting it out and it’s not in my head, I’m able to just write it out.
How long have you been in therapy?
Since I was a 1-year-old I’ve had a therapist, someone to talk to. They might have not been certified, but I’ve always talked and been very open about where I am in my life.
What was it like to work with Prince?
It was very organic. Prince … reached out to me when I released ‘Metropolis’ … and I was doing that almost independently. He and I have been friends ever since and he’s always respected me as a businesswoman and he thought it was great that Puffy wasn’t telling me what to do and that I was in control of my creativity. And he always said, ‘If you ever need anything, I’m always here.’
You’re sticking to your black-and-white fashion style, but your hair is straight in the “Dance Apocalyptic” music video. What happened?
That wasn’t me. That was probably Electric Lady 57821. Lots of clones.
Why did you decide to make “Q.U.E.E.N.” the first single?
Erykah Badu and I talk often, and we wanted to create an anthem for the marginalized. Women, gays, lesbians, the ex-communicated, the untouchable, immigrants.
Are you in the “Q.U.E.E.N.” video?
Only on half of the video. The rap part. I have clones.
How many clones do you have?
I can’t tell you, but that definitely wasn’t me.