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Year in Review: Famous names who passed away in 2016


12-13-2016 01:03 BJT

It's likely that 2016 will best be remembered for world-shaping events like Brexit and Donald Trump's election win. But it's already being noted also as a year in which numerous high-profile celebrities have passed away. From David Bowie and Prince, to Muhammad Ali and Alan Rickman. We remember the cultural icons who have left us this year. 

The year began with British music icon David Bowie dying from cancer.

The passing of the "Space Oddity" and "Let's Dance" performer drew crowds to a shrine in Brixton, where Bowie was born and grew up.

The music world lost another major icon when Prince was found dead at his home in the U.S. state of Minnesota in April.

Prince, known for songs including "Purple Rain" and "When Doves Cry," died on April 21st of an accidental overdose of a powerful painkiller at his Paisley Park estate. He was 57.



Then came the death of Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight champion known as much for his political activism as his boxing brilliance. His passing triggered a worldwide outpouring of affection and admiration for one of the best-known figures of the 20th century.

British actor Alan Rickman, whose roles ranged from Hollywood villains to Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films, died in January after a battle with cancer, aged 69.

With his aquiline features and cultured -- if often menacing -- English accent, he became one of Britain's best-known actors of stage and screen. His career over the last 30 years stretched from the Royal Shakespeare Company to sci-fi spoof "Galaxy Quest".

Songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen died in his sleep after a fall in his Los Angeles home in the middle of the night.

Cohen was music's man of letters. His songs fused religious imagery with themes of redemption and sexual desire. He died on Nov. 7, age 82. 

The U.S. also lost one of its key writers of the 20th century, Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and its surprise follow-up "Go Set a Watchman".

"To Kill a Mockingbird" was published in 1960 as the civil rights movement was heating up. Its unflinching examination of racial hatred in the South made it especially poignant. 

Mexico mourned the loss of Juan Gabriel, a musical icon across Latin America for more than 40 years. Gabriel died of a heart attack in August at age 66.

Gabriel, whose real name was Alberto Aguilera, was born in 1950 into a poor family in the western Mexican state of Michoacan. He rose to sell millions copies of his albums and have his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Other major names from the world of music to pass away in 2016 -- Glenn Frey, a founding member of the rock band Eagles. Maurice White, founder of funk group Earth, Wind and Fire and Natalie Cole, daughter of music great Nat King Cole.

And from the film world, the name of another major figure. Academy Award winning star Gene Wilder, best known for "The Producers", "Blazing Saddles" and "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory".

"Star Wars" actor, Kenny Baker, the man behind the R2-D2 robot also died that month.

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