29 December 2008

The Lost Artists of 2008


An artist's death is no more or less tragic than the death of any other member of society; it can be artificially embellished or, in the shadow of other news, woefully ignored. And yet, there is something about the loss of an artist that can feel oddly more resonant than one might expect. I think this feeling comes from the knowledge that death is not only an end of being but an end of individual creation. We as a species are always looking forward, always planning what is to come next, and the cessation of creation is a sobering occurrence. In the death of artists, we ask ourselves: What one more film could they have done? What one more sentence could they have written? What one more song could they have recorded?

If Frank Capra taught us anything in It's a Wonderful Life, it's that one person's life touches innumerable others, regardless of importance, prominence, or willingness. But the artist is uniquely outlived by his or her tangible art, which is uncurbed by language and time and continues to touch those long after he or she is gone. It is a fact that is simultaneously comforting and eerie to know that we have to lost the person but we maintain the art, which is why those of who us create art and study the arts have a duty to pause at the year's end and remember those we lost who made art or helped make art possible.

This list is incomplete, of course. There is no way to know the identities of all lost artists this year, but this list is one place to start. The names of those who died are listed chronologically, from January to December.

• Maj. Andrew J. Olmstead (b. 1970), soldier and prominent blogger

• Heath Ledger (b. 1979), actor

• Miles Lerman (b. 1920), Holocaust survivor who helped plan and create the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

• Bernie Boston (b. 1933), "Flower Power" photographer who captured the image of a Vietnam War protester inserting flowers into the barrel of a National Guardsman's rifle

• Roy Scheider (b. 1932), actor

• William F. Buckley, Jr. (b. 1925), conservative intellectual and writer

• Anthony Minghella (b. 1954), director and screenwriter

• Arthur C. Clarke (b. 1917), writer

• Richard Widmark (b. 1914), actor

• Jules Dassin (b. 1911), director

• Charlton Heston (b. 1923), actor and activist

• Danny Federici (b. 1950), musician and member of the E Street Band

• Larry Levine (b. 1928), recording engineer who collaborated with Phil Spector to create the "Wall of Sound"

• Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925), neo-dadist painter and sculptor

• Bo Didley (b. 1928), influential rock & roll musician

• Sydney Pollack (b. 1934), director and actor

• Mel Ferrer (b. 1917), actor

• Robert J. Anderson (b. 1933), actor

• Stan Winston (b. 1946), visual effects artist

• Cyd Charisse (b. 1922), dancer and actress

• George Carlin (b. 1937), comedian

• Charles H. Joffe (b. 1929), producer of Woody Allen films

• Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (b. 1918), Nobel laureate writer and dissident

• Jerry Wexler (b. 1917), music journalist and producer who coined the phrase "rhythm and blues" and boosted the careers of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, et al.

• Manny Farber (b. 1917), film critic and painter

• Bill Melendez (b. 1916), animator

• David Foster Wallace (b. 1962), writer

• Richard Wright (b. 1943), Pink Floyd musician

• Norman Whitfield (b. 1940), Motown songwriter

• Paul Newman (b. 1925), actor and humanitarian

• Hayden Carruth (b. 1921), poet and critic

• Bernie Mac (b. 1957), comedian

• Isaac Hayes (b. 1920), musician

• Studs Turkel (b. 1912), historian and journalist

• Michael Crichton (b. 1942), writer

• Mitch Mitchell (b. 1946), drummer for The Jimi Hendrix Experience

• Grace Hartigan (b. 1922), abstract painter

• John Michael Hayes (b. 1919), screenwriter

• William Gibson (b. 1914), playwright

• Odetta (b. 1930), folk musician

• Bettie Page (b. 1923), model

• Van Johnson (b. 1916), actor

• Robert Mulligan (b. 1925), director of To Kill a Mockingbird

• Harold Pinter (b. 1930), Nobel laureate playwright

• Eartha Kitt (b. 1927), entertainer

• Ann Savage (b. 1921), actress

Update: 11:01 p.m., Dec 29 (hat-tip: dcd)
• Suzanne Pheshette (b. 1937), actress
• Evelyn Keyes (b. 1916), actress
• Paul Scofield. (b. 1922), actor
• Dick Martin (b. 1922), comedian
• Harvey Korman (b. 1927), actor
• Edie Adams (b. 1927), actress
• Nina Foch (b. 1924), actress
• Beverly Garland (b. 1926), actress

7 comments:

NoirishCity.... 29 December, 2008  

Hi! T.S.,
Please if I may add another name to the list of artist(s)....that just recently passed away...


.actress Ann Savage (b.1921)

T.S. 29 December, 2008  

Sure, you bet. And if anyone sees a name missing and would like me to add a name, just fire off an email to me and I'll be happy to add.

Tony Dayoub 29 December, 2008  

One more, T.S.

Isaac Hayes.

Tony Dayoub 29 December, 2008  

Oops, and Bettie Page.

T.S. 29 December, 2008  

Great catch on Isaac Hayes. I'm a little indifferent on whether Bettie Page qualifies as an "artist," but she certainly is so ingrained in our culture and the arts that she counts. :)

Tony Dayoub 29 December, 2008  

I somewhat agree with you on Bettie Page. Maybe we could say she elevated the striptease to the level of art? LOL.

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