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We say goodbye to the famous people that touched our lives.
Cloris Leachman, Michael K. Williams, Norm Macdonald, Cicely Tyson, and DMX died this year.
Hank Aaron, 87
"Hammerin' Hank" had a 21-season Major League Baseball career, most of that time with the Milwaukee (and later Atlanta) Braves.
The hall of fame player hit his 715th career home run in 1974, breaking the record Babe Ruth held for close to 33 years. Aaron would end his career with 755 home runs (a record that would hold until Barry Bonds surpassed it in 2007).
"A breaker of records and racial barriers, his remarkable legacy will continue to inspire countless athletes and admirers for generations to come," said former president Jimmy Carter in a statement to the Associated Press, who attended Braves games and called Aaron "a personal hero."
Aaron died of natural causes on January 22.
Ed Asner, 91
This iconic actor was known best for his Emmy-winning performance as Lou Grant on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
With Asner's loud roar of a voice and stocky stature, he spent his career playing a wide range of characters that were often intimidating but over time would prove he had a kind center.
That is most prevalent in one of his final best-known performances voicing the character of Carl in the Pixar classic, "Up."
"Words cannot express the sadness we feel," Asner's official Twitter account read following his death. "With a kiss on your head- Goodnight dad. We love you."
Asner died on August 29, no cause was given.
Ned Beatty, 83
Beatty had a storied acting career that spanned from the early 1970s to the mid 2000s.
He had memorable roles movies like "Network" (which earned him an Oscar nomination), "All the President's Men," "Rudy," and "Toy Story 3" (voicing Lotso).
But his two most memorable was his debut feature role in the movie "Deliverance" as Bobby, and playing Otis, Lex Luthor's sidekick in 1978's "Superman."
In a statement to The Wrap, his manager Deborah Miller said: "Ned was an iconic, legendary talent, as well as a dear friend, and he will be missed by us all."
Beatty died of natural causes on June 13 at his home in LA surrounded by his family and those close to him, the Associated Press reported.
Sonny Chiba, 82
Legendary Japanese actor Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba was known best for playing the lead in numerous martial arts movies through the 1970s.
However, it was the 1974 movie "The Street Fighter" which led to international acclaim for Chiba. It also launched several sequels.
That hit caused his other movies like "Yakuza Cop" and "The Bullet Train" to find an audience.
Then in 2003 Chiba found wide acclaim when he was cast in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" as Hanzo, a sushi owner who is actually master sword maker.
"He was a great friend… humble, caring and friendly man. I will surely miss him," Chiba's manager Timothy Beal told Insider.
Chiba died on August 18 due to pneumonia caused by COVID-19.
Kevin Clark, 32
Clark is known best for playing the brash drummer Freddy "Spazzy McGee" Jones in the 2003 Richard Linklater movie "School of Rock," starring Jack Black.
Clark never acted again in a major film, but continued on as musician playing in a number of Chicago bands.
Michael Constantine, 94
Character actor Michael Constantine was best known for his role as family patriarch Gus Portokalos in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
He reprised the role in the 2016 sequel and the short-lived TV sitcom "My Big Fat Greek Life."
Constantine won an Emmy in 1970 for his role as principal Seymour Kaufman in the ABC series "Room 222."
Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," paid tribute to Constantine on Twitter upon hearing of his death.
"Michael Constantine, the dad to our cast-family, a gift to the written word, and always a friend," she wrote. "Acting with him came with a rush of love and fun. I will treasure this man who brought Gus to life. He gave us so much laughter and deserves a rest now. We love you Michael."
Constantine died on August 31 in Reading, Pennsylvania, following a long illness.
Dustin Diamond, 44
Diamond was known best for playing the bumbling comic relief Samuel "Screech" Powers in the beloved 1990s TV series "Saved by the Bell."
"We are saddened to confirm of Dustin Diamond's passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma," Diamond's representative said in a statement provided to Insider.
"He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system," the statement continued. "The only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful."
Rapper DMX (born Earl Simmons) moved a generation thanks to the pain and anguish he put into all his songs.
Nominated for a Grammy, his songs like "Get at Me Dog" and "X Gon' Give It to Ya" made him a major fixture in the gritty 1990s rap scene. But his talents went beyond music, as his performance as a drug dealer trying to get to kingpin level in 1998's "Belly" put him at cult icon status.
"DMX was a brilliant artist and an inspiration to millions around the world," Def Jam Records, the record label where DMX recorded some of his biggest hits, wrote in a statement following his death. "His message of triumph over struggle, his search for the light out of darkness, his pursuit of truth and grace brought us closer to our own humanity... DMX was nothing less than a giant. His legend will live on forever."
DMX died on April 9, a week after having a heart attack at his home in New York.
Richard Donner, 91
One of the early architects of the Hollywood blockbuster, director Richard Donner's filmography is a legendary one.
From the original "Superman" in 1978 starring Christopher Reeve to "The Goonies" and the "Lethal Weapon" franchise, Donner's storytelling has touched generations.
Then there are the non-franchises that are also memorable: horror classic "The Omen," the Bill Murray-starrer "Scrooged," and the hit Western "Maverick."
And before movies, Donner made his mark in television, having directed the iconic "Twilight Zone" episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," which featured William Shatner convinced a monster is on the wing of the airplane.
Robert Downey Sr., 85
Downey Sr. was a pioneer of the experimental filmmaking scene in New York City during the 1960s.
His film "Putney Swope," about a Black advertising executive who is accidentally put in charge of a big firm and proceeds to upend the business, was a landmark work of the time and would make Downey a star on the scene.
He also found work as an actor, appeared in everything from "The Twilight Zone" and "Matlock," to William Friedkin's neo-noir "To Live and Die in LA" and two Paul Thomas Anderson movies ("Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia").
The father of actor Robert Downey Jr., at five-years-old he made his screen debut in his father's 1970 movie "Pound" alongside his sister, Allyson, who was 7 at the time. He would go on to star in several more of his dad's films before becoming a global star in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and other blockbusters.
Father and son also costarred in movies not directed by Downey Sr., including 1988's "Johnny Be Good" and 1994's "Hail Caesar."
Downey Sr. died on July 7 after years battling Parkinson's disease.
Larry Flynt, 78
The controversial publisher came into prominence in the early 1970s when he created the pornographic magazine, Hustler. Flynt went on to became a First Amendment cult hero in his continued court battles over regulations on pornography, leading to one of those cases being reviewed by the US Supreme Court in 1981.
That case would go on and become the basis of the 1996 movie "The People vs. Larry Flynt," starring Woody Harrelson in the lead role.
In 1978, while walking out of a Georgia courtroom fighting an obscenity charge, he and his lawyer were shot by a gunman. It left Flynt paralyzed with permanent spinal cord damage.
Flynt died of heart failure on February 10.
Charles Grodin, 86
A master at deadpan humor, Charles Grodin became a comedy fixture in the 1980s and 1990s for roles in "The Great Muppet Caper," "Midnight Run," and "Beethoven."
Grodin was also known for writing a number of plays and books. He earned an Emmy for being one of the writers on the 1977 "Paul Simon Special."
In the 1990s, he showed a different side of his talents, talk show host, when he did "The Charles Grodin Show" on CNBC.
Grodin's son, Nicholas, said his father's cause of death was bone marrow cancer, according to The New York Times.
Grodin died on May 18.
Dusty Hill, 72
Hill was a longtime member of legendary rock band ZZ Top.
The bassist, along with lead guitarist Billy Gibbons, were known best for sporting long beards and stetson hats.
But the group, along with drummer Frank Beard, also knew how to make hits. ZZ Top had a number of hits starting in the early 70s, including "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Legs."
It resulted in Hill and the rest of his bandmates being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
"We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature, and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the 'Top,' " the band wrote on its Facebook. "We will forever be connected to that 'Blues Shuffle in C.' You will be missed greatly, amigo."
Hill died at his home in Houston, Texas, on July 28. His cause of death has not been made public.
Hal Holbrook, 95
The veteran actor was beloved in the industry for his work on movies, TV, and the stage. He won a Tony in 1966 for his one-man stage show, "Mark Twain Tonight!" and took home five Emmys over his career. He was also nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 2007's "Into the Wild."
In movies he's best known for are his commanding performances in movies like "Wall Street," "The Firm," and most memorably playing Deep Throat in 1976's "All the President's Men."
Holbrook died at his home in Beverly Hills on January 23. No cause was given.
Greg "Shock G" Jacobs, 57
One of the founders of legendary 1980s hip-hop group, Digital Underground, Shock G (born Greg Jacobs) would be forever known to rap fans for his alter ego Humpty Hump, who was the inspiration for the rap anthem "The Humpty Dance."
The thick glasses with fake big nose turned the Humpty character into rap's first comedic icon.
"34 years ago almost to the day we had a wild idea we can be a hip-hop band and take on the world through it all," wrote Digital Underground co-founder Jimi "Chopmaster J" Dright in tribute to Shock G on Instagram. "The dream became a reality and the reality became a nightmare for some. And now he's awaken from the fame long live shock G Aka Humpty Hump and Rest In Peace my Brotha Greg Jacobs!!!"
Shock G's eye for talent was also realized when he brought on a then unknown Tupac Shakur to be a roadie for the band and then a background singer.
Larry King, 87
The renowned broadcaster had been on radio or TV since the 1950s speaking to all types of people, and was regarded as one of the best interviewers ever thanks to his friendly style with his subjects.
He's most known for his "Larry King Live" show on CNN that ran from 1985 to 2010 and is the network's most-watched and longest-running show of all time. On it, King spoke to the most prominent figures of the time, including celebrities and presidents.
"For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television, and digital media, Larry's many thousands of interviews, awards, and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster," read the statement in a tweet from his handle the day of his death.
King died on January 23. He had been battling COVID-19 in the hospital for over a week before his death, but on February 13 it was announced that the cause of death was sepsis and two underlying conditions.
Yaphet Kotto, 81
The veteran character actor was known best for playing Bond villain Mr. Big in 1973's James Bond movie "Live and Let Die" and Parker in the sci-fi classic "Alien."
Known for his physically imposing characters, Kotto was a fixture in movie and TV for decades, including roles on the series "Homicide: Life on the Street" and FBI agent Mosely in the beloved comedy "Midnight Run" opposite Robert De Niro.
Kotto died on March 15 near Manila in the Philippines. No cause of death was given.
Tommy Lasorda, 94
The hall of fame Major League Baseball manager is known best for leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series championships. He did it with a love of the game and a colorful personality that led to him showing up in several movies and TV shows.
"I believe Tommy Lasorda had no boundaries," former Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser told the Los Angeles Times when learning of his passing. "On a daily basis there were no boundaries to something positive, something about winning, that he could do."
Lasorda died on January 7 due to a cardiac arrest.
Cloris Leachman, 94
The versatile actress was known best for her comedic work, especially on TV ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Malcolm and the Middle") and in Mel Brooks movies ("High Anxiety," and the memorable Frau Blücher in "Young Frankenstein").
She won an Oscar for her performance as a timid school teacher in 1971's "The Last Picture Show" and her work on television earned her an astounding eight Emmy wins.
"Cloris was insanely talented," Brooks tweeted following her death. "She could make you laugh or cry at the drop of a hat. Always such a pleasure to have on set. Every time I hear a horse whinny I will forever think of Cloris' unforgettable Frau Blücher. She is irreplaceable, and will be greatly missed."
Leachman died of natural causes on January 27.
Gregg Leakes, 66
Former "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" star NeNe Leakes' husband, Gregg Leakes, died of colon cancer.
Leakes became a cast member on the popular Bravo reality show 11 years after the two became married and the show documented the couple's divorce in 2011. They couldn't stay away from each other for long. By 2013, they were married again and their second wedding was filmed for a special limited series called "I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding."
"Today, the Leakes family is in deep pain with a broken heart. After a long battle with cancer, Gregg Leakes has passed away peacefully in his home surrounded by all of his children, very close loved ones and wife NeNe Leakes," a representative for the couple told Insider.
He was first diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and then said in 2019 that he was, at the time, cancer-free.
Leakes revealed in June that her husband's cancer had returned.
Rush Limbaugh, 70
Listened to by millions on his political call-in radio show since the 1980s, Limbaugh was a force in American media thanks to his right-wing views.
Vilified as much as he was revered over his career, Limbaugh was a controversial figure over the decades in which he was often accused of saying sexist and racist remarks. He also promoted the false theory that former president Barack Obama was not born in the US, something that Donald Trump also subscribed to before he became president.
Limbaugh would be a major voice in Trump's run for the presidency. In 2020, then president Trump awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
"It is with profound sadness, I must share with you directly, that our beloved Rush, my wonderful husband, passed away this morning due to complications from lung cancer," Limbaugh's wife, Kathryn, announced on his radio show on February 17. "As so many of you know, losing a loved one is terribly difficult, even more so when that loved one is larger than life. Rush will forever be the greatest of all-time."
Jackie Mason, 93
Known for mixing Jewish themes and political incorrectness in his routine, Jackie Mason became a fixture in the stand-up comic scene for decades.
The rabbi-turned-comedian had a legendary career that included countless stops on the latenight TV circuit, Emmy wins for his stand-up specials in the 1980s and even the star of 1988's "Caddyshack II."
Mason died on July 24 after being hospitalized for more than two weeks at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, celebrity lawyer Raoul Felder told the Associated Press. No cause was given.
Norm Macdonald, 61
Known best for his straight-faced delivery on any topic regardless how crude or inappropriate, Macdonald forged a comedy career being the guy who would say anything at any time regardless the consequences.
The best example of this was during his time on "Saturday Night Live." As the anchor of Weekend Update from 1994 to 1997, he was taken off as anchor during the O.J. Simpson trial after his jokes constantly saying that Simpson murdered his ex-wife and her friend finally upset an NBC executive who was friends with Simpson.
It made him a legend in the comedy world and Macdonald went on to build a career in movies ("Dirty Work," "Billy Madison," and the "Dr. Dolittle" franchise), TV ("Norm" "The Orville"), and dozens of memorable late night show appearances.
Macdonald died on September 14 from cancer, which he had been battling for close to a decade, according to his longtime producing partner Lori Jo Hoekstra. He had kept it private from his fans.
Helen McCrory, 52
A veteran of the stage, television, and movies, McCrory is best known for playing Narcissa Malfoy in the final three "Harry Potter" films.
"I'm heartbroken to announce that after a heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family," her husband, actor Damian Lewis tweeted following her death.
"She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you."
She was also known for playing Polly Gray on the series "Peaky Blinders" and roles in movies ranging from 2006's "The Queen" to the James Bond 2012 movie, "Skyfall."
McCrory died of cancer on April 16.
Prince Philip, 99
"It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh," the palace said in a statement obtained by Insider. "His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle."
Philip died on April 9, according to Buckingham Palace.
Jay Pickett, 60
Pickett was best known for his roles as Detective David Harper on "General Hospital" and as Frank Scanlon on its spinoff, "Port Charles." He also appeared as Dr. Chip Lakin in "Days of our Lives."
Born in Spokane, Washington, and grew up in Caldwell, Idaho. After receiving his MFA in acting from UCLA, he quickly entered the business and grabbed roles in top shows of the 1980s like "China Beach," "Perry Mason," and "Matlock."
On August 2 Pickett death happened suddenly as he was preparing to shoot a scene for the movie "Treasure Valley," Travis Mills, the movie's director, said on the movie's Facebook page.
No cause was given.
Christopher Plummer, 91
Plummer's storied career was far-ranging, as he found acclaim on the stage, and both the small and big screens.
He received two Tony awards, two Emmys, a best supporting actor Oscar for his performance in the 2010 drama "Beginners" at the age of 82 (making him the oldest person ever to win an Academy Award), and had a slew of memorable roles in movies including playing Mike Wallace in "The Insider" and a wealthy author in "Knives Out."
But his most memorable role came as Captain Von Trapp in the 1965 movie adaptation of "The Sound of Music."
"Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashion manners, self-deprecating humor and the music of words," Plummer's longtime manager, Lou Pitt, told Deadline. "He was a national treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots. Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come."
Plummer died on February 5, no cause was given.
Tanya Roberts, 65
The actress and model is best known for playing Bond girl Stacey Sutton in 1985's "A View to a Kill." Roberts also starred in the final season of "Charlie's Angels" in 1980 as Julie Rogers and played Midge Pinciotti in "That '70s Show."
"She was the sweetest person you'd ever meet and had a huge heart," said her longtime rep Mike Pingel. "She loved her fans, and I don't think she realized how much she meant to them."
Roberts died on January 4 due to complications from a urinary tract infection.
Joseph Siravo, 66
Siravo's tough guy roles found him doing work in everything from the stage, to Brian DePalma's "Carlito's Way" (marking his movie debut), and playing Tony Soprano's dad in "The Sopranos."
Siravo mainly found work in theater, where he was part of Tony Award-winning productions of "Oslo" and "The Light in the Piazza." Most notably on television, he played Johnny Soprano in flashback scenes in "The Sopranos." Recently, he also played Fred Goldman, the father of Ronald Goldman in the FX mini-series, "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story."
The actor died on April 11 following a "long, courageous" battle with colon cancer, according to his agent.
Phil Spector, 81
Known in the music world as a producer who worked alongside everyone from the Beatles to the Ronettes, Spector was known later in life for being convicted of murder.
In 2009, he was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.
He died on January 16 of natural causes according to California state prison officials inside the San Joaquin General Hospital. Spector's daughter, Nicole Audrey Spector said he died due to complications of COVID-19.
Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas, 70
Thomas founded Kool & the Gang in 1964 alongside several teenage friends, including brothers Robert "Kool" and Ronald "Khalis" Bell, Robert "Spike" Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown, and Ricky West.
The group's mix of funk and jazz arrangements has become one of the popular, influential, and heavily sampled sounds in contemporary music and has been featured in several film soundtracks, including "Saturday Night Fever," "Rocky," and Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction.
"An original member of Kool & the Gang, Dennis was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanor," read the statement of his passing on the band's official Facebook page. "A huge personality while also an extremely private person, Dennis was the alto saxophone player, flutist, percussionist, as well as master of ceremonies at the band's shows."
Thomas died on August 7 in New Jersey "peacefully in his sleep," according to the statement by the band.
Cicely Tyson, 96
In a career that spanned more than 70 years, Cicely Tyson made her mark in every form of entertainment medium having won three Emmy awards, a Tony, honorary Oscar, and Peabody Award.
She's most known for her Oscar-nominated performance in the 1972 drama "Sounder," her Emmy-winning role as Ophelia Harkness in "How to Get Away with Murder," and her countless stage performances.
"My heart breaks in one beat, while celebrating her life in the next," Tyler Perry wrote in a statement on the loss of Tyson on his Instagram. Tyson starred in several of his movies.
"To think that she lived for 96 years and I got to be a part of the last 16 brings me great joy," he continued. "She called me son. Well, today your son grieves your loss and will miss our long talks, your laughter from your belly, and your very presence."
Tyson died on January 28, the cause of death was not announced.
Jessica Walter, 80
The Emmy-winning actress was known best for her memorable roles in "Arrested Development" and "Archer" later in her career. But her work spans decades and also includes starring opposite Clint Eastwood in the 1971 thriller "Play Misty for Me" and voicing a character in the popular 1990s series "Dinosaurs."
"It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica," Walter's daughter, Brooke Bowman, told Deadline. "A working actor for over six decades, her greatest pleasure was bringing joy to others through her storytelling both on screen and off. While her legacy will live on through her body of work, she will also be remembered by many for her wit, class and overall joie de vivre."
Walter died in her sleep at her home in New York City on March 24, according to Bowman.
Charlie Watts, 80
For nearly 60 years Watts was the quiet backbone of one of the biggest bands in the world.
As the drummer of The Rolling Stones, he didn't have the flash of its frontman Mick Jagger or the flamboyance of its lead guitarist Keith Richards, instead Watts kept in the background often staying quiet when the band had to do press.
Instead, he let his music do the talking.
He is widely recognized as one of the most skilled drummers of all time.
He was the third-longest-running Rolling Stones member, behind Jagger and Richards. His last concert with the band took place in Miami on August 30, 2019.
Weeks before his death he announced he was withdrawing for the band's upcoming US tour.
"Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also as a member of The Rolling Stones one of the greatest drummers of his generation," the statement read following his death. "We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members, and close friends is respected at this difficult time."
Watts died on August 24, no cause was given.
Michael K. Williams, 54
Responsible for crafting one of the most memorable TV characters of all time playing Baltimore gangster Omar Little in HBO's "The Wire," Williams went on to forge a respected career playing complex roles.
Williams followed up "The Wire" with delivering another memorable performance playing racketeer Chalky White in another acclaimed HBO series, "Boardwalk Empire."
That then followed with Emmy nominations for his roles in the 2015 movie "Bessie," the 2016 limited series "The Night Of," and the 2019 limited series "When They See Us."
More recently he was nominated in the upcoming Emmys for the 2020 HBO series "Lovecraft Country."
Williams began his career as a backup dancer for artists like George Michael and Madonna. He even choreographed the the dancing for the hit 1994 music video "Pure Love" by Crystal Waters.
Williams' acting was always a standout regardless the size of the role thanks to his deep voice and scar that went across his face.
Williams was reportedly found dead in his Brooklyn, New York City apartment on September 6, according to the New York Post.
Clarence Williams III, 81
After wowing audiences on the Broadway stage in the mid-1960s (earning a Tony nomination along the way), Clarence Williams III found mainstream stardom playing Linc Hayes in the hit TV series "The Mod Squad," which ran from 1968 to 1973.
Williams would then go on to have an impressive career in movies, TV, and the stage.
His performances always stood out for his stilled acting, booming voice, and intensity which could spark at a moment's notice.
Williams' memorable roles include playing Prince's abusive father in "Purple Rain," Mr. Simms in 1995's "Tales from the Hood," and playing the memorable Sampson Simpson in the 1998 cult hit "Half Baked," written by and starring Dave Chappelle.
Williams died on June 4 due to colon cancer.
Samuel E. Wright, 74
This two-time Tony Award-nominated actor did everything from play Dizzy Gillespie in Clint Eastwood's 1988 "Bird" to being the purple grapes character in a series of Fruit of the Loom underwear commercials, but he'll forever be remembered as the voice of Sebastian the Crab in the Disney classic "The Little Mermaid."
Samuel E. Wright's Trinidadian-accent turned Ariel's cautious sidekick in the 1989 animated movie into one of Disney's most memorable characters from that era of releases.
And Wright's singing of Oscar-winning song "Under the Sea" and nominated "Kiss the Girl" helped make the movie into an instant classic.
Wright died on May 24 after a three-year battle with prostate cancer, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
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