Stars We've Lost in 2021
Hollywood has said goodbye to several beloved public figures and influential icons of culture. Click through the gallery for more on the lives and legacies of the stars we have recently lost.
The legendary singer and founding member of The Supremes died at her home in Henderson, Nevada, on Feb. 8. She was 76. Wilson is best known for her work with the iconic Motown singing group -- alongside Diana Ross and the late Florence Ballard -- who became one of the biggest musical acts of the 1960s, and created over a dozen No. 1 singles. Some of the group's biggest hits include “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and “Back in My Arms Again,” among countless other timeless classics. Aside from her indelible music career, Wilson was also known for her work as a motivational speaker, an advocate for social change and a cultural ambassador for the United States. Wilson is survived by her daughter, Turkessa, her son, Pedro Antonio Jr., as well as 10 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
The Alaskan Bush People star died on Feb. 8, after suffering a seizure. He was 68. News of his death was first posted by his son, Bear Brown, on Instagram. "He was our best friend — a wonderful and loving dad, granddad and husband and he will be dearly missed. He lived his life on his terms, off the grid and off the land and taught us to live like that as well. We plan to honor his legacy going forward, and to continue with his dream," Bear said of his late father. The Brown family has been the center of the Discovery channel series Alaskan Bush People for 12 seasons, beginning in 2014. The docuseries follows the Browns as they survive in the harsh Alaskan wilderness, detached from society and most modern conveniences. Billy is survived by his wife, Ami Brown, as well as five sons, two daughters and several grandchildren.
The Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor died on Feb. 5, at his home in Connecticut, with his wife of 53 years, Elaine Taylor, by his side. He was 91. Plummer's longtime friend and manager of 46 years, Lou Pitt, confirmed to ET that the screen legend's death was due to a blow to the head as a result of a fall. Over his more than 60-year career, Plummer amassed dozens of credits in TV, film and theater, including The Sound of Music, Inside Man, A Ghost in Monte Carlo, A Beautiful Mind, National Treasure, Knives Out and Beginners, which earned Plummer a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2012. Plummer also had a special talent for playing real-life people, like journalist Mike Wallace in The Insider, attorney F. Lee Bailey in the TV film American Tragedy, and Russian writer Anton Chekhov in the The Good Doctor. In 2017, Plummer portrayed J. Paul Getty (after Kevin Spacey was dropped from the already-completed film over sexual assault allegations) in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World. The film role earned Plummer his third Academy Award nomination, making him the oldest actor to be nominated for an Oscar. He is survived by his wife and his daughter, actress Amanda Plummer, from a previous marriage.
The former undisputed heavyweight champion died on Feb. 5, after a five-year cancer battle. He was 67. The legendary pugilist -- who won Olympic gold in 1976 -- went on to upset Muhammad Ali via split decision over 15 rounds just five years later. The fight saw Spinks make history in just his eighth pro bout as the quickest boxer to win the heavyweight championship. Born in St. Louis in 1953, Spinks served in the United States Marine Corps from 1973 until 1976, when he won Olympic gold as a light heavyweight in Montreal. His son, Cory Spinks, won world titles as a welterweight and junior middleweight before retiring in 2013. Spinks retired in 1995 at the age of 42 after losing five of his final eight fights. He is survived by wife Brenda Glur Spinks, as well as his sons, Cory and Darrell, and one grandchild.
The famed New York-based photographer -- best known for his career photographing artists, musicians in the Big Apple while documenting the city's iconic pop culture allure -- was found dead in his West Village apartment on Feb. 1, the New York Times reports. He was 59. No cause of death has yet been released, although Powell had been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease last year. The famed photographer was best known for his snapshots documenting the rise of New York City's hip hop scene and he was popularly known as the "fourth Beastie Boy" after touring with the trio from 1986 to '94. Powell also published several books of his photography and was the subject of the 2020 documentary Ricky Powell: The Individualist.
The actor died following a cancer battle on Feb. 1. He was 44. A member of Diamond's team confirmed the sad news to ET. "We are saddened to confirm Dustin Diamond’s passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma," the statement reads. "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 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." Diamond was best known for playing the character Screech on Saved by the Bell, though he did not appear in the show's recent reimagining.
The six-time Emmy-winning TV writer and producer died on Jan. 30. He was 85. Burns' death was first reported by his longtime friend and writing partner James L. Brooks, who shared the news with a heartfelt tribute on Twitter. "Alan Burns, my writing partner during the Mary Tyler Moore days, died yesterday. His singular writing career brought him every conceivable recognition But, you had to know him to appreciate his full rarity. He was simply the finest man I have every known. A beauty of a human," Brooks wrote. Burns is best known for co-creating The Munsters, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff series, Rhoda, Lou Grant and Phyllis -- the latter of which starred Cloris Leachman, who died days before Burns on Jan. 27.
The legendary actress and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient died on Jan. 28 at the age of 96.
"With heavy heart, the family of Miss Cicely Tyson announces her peaceful transition this afternoon," Tyson's family said, via her manager, Larry Thompson. "At this time, please allow the family their privacy. A formal statement and details will follow."
Tyson was an icon of television, film and Broadway, having won an Emmy, Tony and Screen Actors Guild awards. Born in Harlem, New York, to immigrant parents from the West Indies, she first entered the limelight as a model, appearing on the cover of Ebony magazine, and got into acting through roles on NBC’s Frontiers of Faith and plays including The Blacks.
Tyson’s rise in the acting world continued as she gained critical acclaim for playing Rebecca Morgan in 1972's Sounder, earning Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress. She then took home two Emmy Awards for her portrayal of a young slave in the 1974 television movie, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.
The famed actress' rep confirmed to ET that Leachman died in her sleep on Jan. 27, at her Encinitas, California, home, with her daughter, Dinah Englund, by her side. She was 94. Leachman appeared in over 100 films and televisions shows including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Raising Hope,The Facts of Life, Phyllis, Malcolm in the Middle, American Gods, The Longest Yard, Bad Santa, Touched by an Angel, Lassie, Kiss Me Deadly and Perry Mason among countless others. She also worked with fellow Hollywood legends like Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock and Paul Newman, and appeared in three films helmed by famed director Mel Brooks: Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety and History of the World: Part 1. In 1972, she took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Last Picture Show, and she earned one Golden Globe and eight Emmys over the course of her career. In 2006, Drake University presented Leachman with an honorary doctorate. Two years later, Leachman took her talents to Dancing With the Stars, becoming the oldest person to compete on the show. Leachman's accolades also include being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2011 and receiving an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Northwestern University, in 2014. PETA also gave Leachman a lifetime achievement award in 2017, commemorating her work as an animal activist. Leachman is survived by her four children and six grandchildren.
The celebrated stage and screen star died at his home in Beverly Hills on Jan. 23. He was 95. Holbrook's death was not announced until Feb. 1. Holbrook was best known for his role as Mark Twain, whom he portrayed for decades in a one-man show he developed, Mark Twain Tonight! Between the 1950s and 2010, Holbrook performed the show over 2,000 times throughout multiple productions on Broadway and in other venues nationwide. The beloved show would go on to earn him a Best Actor Tony Award in 1966, and a TV adaptation earned him his first of many Emmy nominations in 1967. Holbrook also had an incredible film and TV career spanning over six decades, with over 130 credits and innumerable accolades -- including five Emmy awards out of a total of 12 nominations. Holbrook had memorable roles in many acclaimed films including Lincoln, The Firm, Men of Honor, All the President's Men and Into the Wild, which snagged him an Oscar nomination and a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He is survived by three children and two stepdaughters, as well as four grandchildren.
The veteran TV and radio host known for his signature suspenders and legendary interviews, died Jan. 13. He was 87.
King's company, Ora Media, shared the news on social media, writing that the iconic broadcaster died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. A cause of death was not given, though King was hospitalized with COVID-19 in early January.
"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," the statement read, in part. "Additionally, while it was his name appearing in the shows' titles, Larry always viewed his interview subjects as the true stars of his programs, and himself as merely an unbiased conduit between the guest and audience."
On Jan. 22, CBS46 reported that Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron, Hall of Famer, one-time home run king and Atlanta Braves legend, passed away at the age of 86.
Aaron remains baseball’s runs batted in leader with 2,297 and total base leader with 6,856. Hammerin’ Hank finished his career with 755 home runs, an all-time record that stood for decades until Barry Bonds passed him and finished with 762 home runs. His #44 jersey was retired by both the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers.
The baseball Hall of Famer died in his sleep at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, on Jan. 18, after a battle with cancer. He was 75. Throughout his 23-year career as a starting pitcher, Sutton was four-time All-Star and played mainly for the Los Angeles Dodgers, although he also spent time with the Athletics, the Astros, the Angels and the Brewers. "Don Sutton's brilliance on the field, and his lasting commitment to the game that he so loved, carried through to his time as a Member of the Hall of Fame," Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, shared in a statement. "I know how much he treasured his moments in Cooperstown, just as we treasured our special moments with him. We share our deepest condolences with his wife, Mary, and his family." Sutton ranks third in all-time career starts behind only Cy Young and Nolan Ryan. He was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
The son of supermodel Stephanie Seymour and billionaire industrialist Peter Brant, died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs on Jan. 17. He was 24. "We will forever be saddened that his life was cut short by this devastating disease," Brant's parents said in a statement to The New York Times. "He achieved a lot in his 24 years, but we will never get the chance to see how much more Harry could have done… Harry was not just our son, he was also a wonderful brother, loving grandson, favorite uncle and a caring friend. He was a creative, loving and powerful soul that brought light into so many people's hearts. He was truly a beautiful person inside and out."
The convicted murderer and famed music producer died of natural causes on Jan. 16. He was 81. The news of Spector's death was announced by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on Sunday. In 2009, Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life for the fatal shooting of Lana Clarkson at his Alhambra, California mansion in 2003. Before his newfound infamy, Spector was regarded as a revolutionary music producer who pioneered a recording formula that he called the Wall of Sound. Throughout his life, Spector worked with some of the biggest acts in music including The Beatles, The Ramones, Leonard Cohen, Ike & Tina Turner, Cher and countless others.
Peter Mark Richman
The Three's Company star died of natural causes at his home in Woodland Hills, California, on Jan. 14. He was 93.
"Richman leaves a legacy of creative endeavors spanning over eight decades of work in the performing and visual arts. However, it was for his marriage to actress Helen Richman and for his roles as father and grandfather of which he was most proud," reads a statement from his rep.
Richman appeared on Broadway in A Hatful of Rain and Masquerade, and portrayed Jerry in over 400 performances of Edward Albee's original NY production of The Zoo Story. He also had roles in films like Friendly Persuasion, Black Orchid, The Strange One, Naked Gun 2 and Friday the 13th Part 8. He also starred as Nick Cain in his own NBC series Cain's Hundred, and appeared in Three's Company, Beverly Hills, 90210, Dynasty, and many more.
The legendary Siegfried & Roy magician died in Las Vegas on Jan. 13, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 81. Siegfried's death comes eight months after his longtime collaborator, Roy Horn, died due to complications from COVID-19. Throughout their 50-year career, Siegfried & Roy became Las Vegas legends, maintaining a four decade-long run of their act, which included both illusions and animals. The pair hit the height of their success with a 14 year-run at The Mirage, which began its $30 million production in 1990. Siegfried & Roy’s legacy lives on at The Secret Garden of Siegfried & Roy at The Mirage.
The General Hospital star died on Jan. 9. He was 84. His daughter, Caitlin Reilly, shared the news and a tribute to her late father on social media, posting a throwback pic from her childhood. "The brightest light in the world has gone out," she wrote. "Imagine the best person in the world. Now imagine that person being your dad. "I’m so grateful he was mine. I’m so grateful I got to love him. I’m so grateful I made it in time to hold him and say goodbye. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do, but I know he’ll be with me. I love you forever Daddy." Reilly, best known for his role as Sean Donely on General Hospital, was a veteran actor who appeared on other soaps like Sunset Beach and Passions throughout his career. He began acting in the 1960s with roles on shows like Death Valley Days, Apple’s Way and Gunsmoke. Reilly replaced John Colenback as Dr. Dan Stewart on As the World Turns in 1974, and stayed on the show until 1976. In addition to his TV work, Reilly appeared in the films The Main Event in 1979 and Gorp in 1980. He is survived by his wife, Liz, and three daughters.
The beloved Hall of Fame manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers died on Jan. 7. He was 93. The official Twitter accounts for Major League Baseball and the L.A. Dodgers confirmed the news, sharing, "Lasorda suffered a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest at his home at 10:09 p.m. He was transported to the hospital with resuscitation in progress. He was pronounced dead at 10:57 p.m." The statement continued, "Regarded by many as baseball's most popular ambassador, Lasorda spent 71 seasons in the Dodger organization with the Dodger Blue running through his veins." Throughout his time managing the Dodgers from 1976 to 1996, the team won two World Series titles, four National League pennants and eight division crowns. Lasorda is survived by his wife, Jo, their daughter, Laura, and granddaughter, Emily Tess.
Dearon "Deezer D" Thompson, best known for his role as Nurse Malik McGrath on ER, died on Jan. 7. He was 55. The actor's brother, Emmery Thompson, confirmed the tragic news in a post shared to Instagram on Friday. "My Big Brother! God is with you," he wrote. "I will miss you. #deezerd." Dearon was found unresponsive at his home in Los Angeles Thursday morning, according to TMZ, who was first to report the news. His family told the outlet that they believe he may have died of a heart attack. In addition to appearing on ER from 1994 through 2009, Dearon also starred in films like CB4 and Fear of a Black Hat, and performed as a hip-hop artist and motivational speaker. Other credits include Bringing Down the House, The John Larroquette Show, and Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.
The star of screen and stage died on Jan. 7 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 73. Ramsey is best remembered for her role as the soft-spoken Officer Laverne Hooks in the Police Academy franchise, beginning with the first film in 1984., Ramsey reprised the role for every subsequent installment in the series until Police Academy 6: City Under Siege. Additional film and TV credits include MacGyver, Beverly Hills, 90210, The Nanny, Modern Family, and Return to Babylon. Her most notable recent role came in 2015's SyFy campy cult hit Lavalantula, where she appeared opposite her former Police Academy co-star Steve Guttenberg. She reprised the role for the 2016 sequel, 2 Lava 2 Lantula. Ramsey also enjoyed a long career on stage, appearing in numerous Broadway and Off-Broadway productions. She is survived by her three brothers.
The British rocker died of a heart infection on Jan. 3. He was 78. Marsden's close friend, Pete Price, announced the news on Twitter, writing "It's with a very heavy heart after speaking to the family that I have to tell you the Legendary Gerry Marsden MBE after a short illness which was an infection in his heart has sadly passed away. Sending all the love in the world to Pauline and his family. You'll Never Walk Alone." Marsden, the lead singer of the British rock group Gerry and the Pacemakers, was best known for his cover of "You'll Never Walk Alone," from the musical Carousel, as well as his song "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying."
The Food Network star and celebrated cake designer died on Jan. 2. She was 75. The TV personality's death was announced on Facebook by the non-profit organization she founded, the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show, on Saturday. "It is with great sadness that I have to report the passing of Kerry Vincent earlier this evening," the post shared. "Being a very private person when it came to all things not cake, she did not want to put her illness out there to the public. Unfortunately her fight has come to an end but she will no longer have any pain. She will be sorely missed by all who she has touched through the Sugar Arts as [well] as personally." Throughout her career, Vincent was best known for serving as a judge on Food Network Challenge, as well as The Great Australian Bake Off. Vincent also hosted her own Food Network show, Save My Bakery, which ran for one season in 2014. She is survived by her husband, Doug Vincent.