Here are just some of the famous people – and one famous cat! – who the world farewelled in 2019. It was a 12-month period in which we sadly lost a string of prominent musical icons, Hollywood greats and literary heroes, along with a YouTube star, a fashion designer, an amazing architect and others.
Russi Taylor, 75
Taylor was the voice of Minnie Mouse for over 30 years, and also voiced Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, along with minor characters on The Simpsons. She died on 26 July.
Did you know? Taylor was married to Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse.
Bob Willis, 70
The former England cricket captain, fast bowler and hero of the 1981 Ashes series against Australia died from prostate cancer on 4 December after a three-year illness.
Did you know? As a teenager, Willis was a big fan of Bob Dylan, even changing his name by deed poll to include “Dylan” as a middle name.
Robert Forster, 78
The American acting veteran, who enjoyed a late career revival after Quentin Tarantino cast him in Jackie Brown, died in his LA home on 11 October from brain cancer.
Did you know? Forster’s mother worked as an elephant trainer for the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Ric Ocasek, 75
The singer-songwriter and frontman for The Cars, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, died in New York on 15 September from heart-related issues.
Did you know? Ocasek was one of hundreds of artists whose recorded work was lost in a huge fire at Universal Studios in 2008.
Grumpy Cat, 7
American celebrity animal Grumpy Cat, who continues to have millions of followers on social media sites, died on 14 May from complications from a urinary tract infection.
Did you know? Grumpy’s real name was Tardar Sauce.
Jessi Combs, 36
Star of shows such as Mythbusters, Combs (“the fastest woman on four wheels”) died on 27 August in an attempt to beat her own jet-powered land-speed record in a desert in Oregon.
Did you know? The final speeds set by Combs were over 850km/h; they’re currently being verified by Guinness.
Peter Fonda, 79
The famed film star (Easy Rider, Ulee’s Gold) and counterculture figure of the 1960s died on 16 August from complications from lung cancer.
Did you know? Fonda voiced the character of an old hippie in one of the biggest selling videogames of all time, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004).
Toni Morrison, 88
Author Morrison was the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature (she also won a Pulitzer Prize). She was best known for her 1988 novel Beloved, whose movie adaptation starred Oprah Winfrey. She passed away on 5 August.
Did you know? President Barack Obama rated Morrison’s Song of Solomon as his favourite book of all time.
Harold (Hal) Prince, 91
West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera: all of these famous musicals were produced or directed by Broadway icon Harold Prince, who died on 31 July.
Did you know? Prince won 21 Tony awards over the course of his career.
Peter Mayhew, 74
The English-American actor used his seven-foot height to great effect while playing the role of Chewbacca in the Star Wars films. He died from a heart attack on 30 April.
Did you know? Mayhew was working as an orderly in the radiology department of King’s College Hospital, London when he first heard of the casting call for the original Star Wars film (1977).
Grant Thompson, 38
Thompson’s popular YouTube channel, “The King of Random”, covered everything from experiments with liquid nitrogen to a tutorial on opening a coconut without tools. He died on 29 July in a paragliding accident in Utah.
Did you know? Thompson grew up under the Mormon faith and spent two years in England on a missionary trip.
Rutger Hauer, 75
The Blade Runner star and Golden Globe winner died on 19 July at his Netherlands home after a short illness.
Did you know? Writer Anne Rice wanted Hauer to play the role of Lestat in Interview with the Vampire (1994), but Tom Cruise was chosen instead.
Niki Lauda, 70
Considered one of the greatest F1 racers of all time, three-time-world-champ Lauda, who survived a terrible 1976 crash that engulfed him in flames and toxic fumes, went on to become a successful airline entrepreneur. He died in his sleep on 20 May after a kidney-related illness.
Did you know? Lauda was nicknamed “The Rat” on account of his prominent front teeth.
Doris Day, 97
Day came to fame in the Golden Age of Hollywood and had a prominent 20-year screen career in the 1950s and 1960s before becoming an animal welfare activist and launching the Doris Day Animal Foundation. She died on 13 May.
Did you know? Day believed for most of her life that she was born in 1924, until on her 95th birthday when her missing birth certificate from 1922 was located.
Ginger Baker, 80
Renowned as one of the best drummers ever, Baker played alongside Eric Clapton in the British late-1960s supergroup Cream. He died peacefully in hospital on 6 October, with no cause of death revealed.
Did you know? Ginger was a nickname, from his hair colour.
Karl Lagerfeld, 85
Chanel’s famed creative director – he of the white hair, starched collars, black sunglasses and fingerless gloves – died in Paris of pancreatic cancer on 19 February.
Did you know? In 2001, Lagerfeld lost over 40kg purely because he wanted to wear different fashion styles that didn’t suit his bigger frame.
Albert Finney, 82
The British star of Murder on the Orient Express and Erin Brockovich died in London on 7 February from a chest infection. He won three Golden Globes in his career and was nominated five times for an Oscar.
Did you know? Finney had no agent or manager, and refused almost all requests to be interviewed throughout his career.
Keith Flint, 49
Vocalist from hardcore electronic act The Prodigy – best known for tunes including “Firestarter” and “Breathe” – died on 6 May from an apparent suicide.
Did you know? Flint didn’t sing for the band until their third album; up to that point, he only danced on stage during their live shows.
André Previn, 89
A German-American pianist, award-winning composer, winner of 10 Grammys, and husband of actress Mia Farrow, Previn died in New York City on 28 February following a short illness.
Did you know? Previn wrote the music for more than 50 films.
Luke Perry, 52
The Hollywood heartthrob and star of Beverly Hills 90210 and Riverdale died on 4 March after suffering a massive stroke.
Did you know? Perry apparently auditioned over 250 times before winning his first acting role.
I. M. Pei, 102
The oldest of the famous people on our list, world-renowned architect I.M. Pei built the steel-and-glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris, along with buildings in Singapore, Hong Kong and elsewhere. He died on 23 May.
Did you know? Pei was inspired to build when, at age 9, he saw the immense hole that had been dug for a new 25-storey hotel in Shanghai.
John Singleton, 51
Best known for movies such as Boyz N the Hood and Higher Learning, filmmaker and two-time Oscar nominee Singleton suffered a stroke and died on 29 April.
Did you know? He remains the youngest ever nominee (age 24) for an Academy Award for Best Director.
Gary Rhodes, 59
Rhodes was a British celebrity chef and TV host best known for MasterChef in both the US and UK. He died on 26 November after suffering from a bleed in the brain while filming in Dubai.
Did you know? Rhodes earnt his first Michelin star as a chef at the age of just 26.
Aloysius Pang, 28
Singaporean actor Pang, whose awards included Best Newcomer at the Star Awards 2015, died in New Zealand on 24 Janaury as a result of injuries sustained in a military training accident.
Did you know? The actor would reportedly set aside 10 percent of his acting pay for the production people on set.
For more, head to our Living in Singapore section.