Farewell 2016

Well, what a depressing year 2016 has been for deaths of the famous, at times a big name seems to have passed, almost, on a daily basis.

Some are asking if this is an exceptional year and, yes, in a way it has been however I also think this high volume of celebrity deaths is to become the norm.

Remember the 1960’s?

Many of you probably were not even born then, but I remember them and it was the beginning of the age of celebrity. The growth of radio, in particular, the pirate radio stations, the rebranding of BBC radio and the birth of Radio One.

Pop music became big business and with it the proliferation of new talent – young guys and gals in their twenties, thrust into the limelight, becoming household names. Some just had their 15 minutes of fame, others endured.

Roll the clock forward 50 years and these lithe young performers are now in their 70’s and 80’s an age when they are going to start shuffling off the mortal coil.

So, I don’t think more people are dying this year, what is happening is more well known people are dying and it’s a trend that’s going to continue.

I have to admit some of the deaths this year have affected more than others, so here are some I those I will particularly miss, plus a couple I’m glad to see the back of.

Ed "Stewpot" StewartOne of the first celebrities we lost this year was Ed Stewart. For those of my generation he was the voice of Saturday and Sunday mornings when he presented Junior Choice on Radio’s One and Two (from 1968 – 1980) – yes in those days the two stations used to merge for some programs.

A request show for children it included children’s favourites and the latest pop songs as well. As an aside he always used to end the show with a mention of producer Pam Cox -  back in 1987 I got to meet Pam as she was the producer of Radio Two’s Children In Need and she was such a lovely lady.

As well as Junior Choice Stewpot, as he was known, also presented Crackerjack from 1973 – 1979. To think kids would get excited at winning a Crackerjack pencil!!!  OK - how many of you shouted out Crackerjack when you read this paragraph? If you wonder what the hell I’m rabbiting on about, have a look on You Tube!!

Also in January we saw the passing of David Bowie, something of an oddity and I have to say not exactly my taste in music, with a couple of exceptions. However, there was no doubting he was a musical talent.

Sir Terry WoganJanuary ended with the death of everyone’s favourite “uncle”, Sir Terry Wogan. A gentle broadcaster with an impish sense of humour who never seemed to take anything too seriously.

His irreverent commentaries for Eurovision are probably the only reason the politically biased songfest endured on our TV screens – luckily he was replaced by the equally irreverent Graham Norton.

His radio show was the epitome of easy listening but he somehow managed to bring some naughtiness to the show without offending.

I did say he never seemed to take anything seriously but that’s not quite true, one thing he took most seriously was Children In Need, the annual BBC fundraiser for disadvantaged children. He was the face of the appeal and although in later years his appearances became a little hackneyed it was the money he helped raise he will, rightly, be most remembered for.

For many years Wogan’s Radio Two show was followed by the Jimmy Young show and the duo were reunited when Young died in November. Young initially found fame in the 1950’s as a crooner, with a couple of number one hits including Unchained Melody, long before the Righteous Brothers hit the scene. It’s hard to believe his UK radio career began with Radio One before he switched to Radio Two with his show which combined music and current affairs. He interviewed every Prime Minister from 1964 – 2010 and they all discovered he was no pushover, he may not have been Paxmanesque but he could still make them squirm.  

George Martin began his career producing what can only be described as naff cartoon videos for songs like Bernard Cribben’s Right Said Fred, then he met four young lads from Liverpool who had a rock combo called The Beatles and the rest, as they say is history as be became, arguably, the most iconic record producer in pop history, with his masterpiece being Sgt Pepper.

In the sixties the two big mega bands were The Beatles or The Stones, you grew up liking one or the other, myself I was very much in The Beatles court.  

Paul DanielsAnother who was not really my cup of tea was magician Paul Daniels, indeed I used to find him quite irritating, however it cannot be denied he was a clever magician.

I always remember the interview with his wife Debbie McGee who was asked by the eponymous Mrs Merton, “what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels.”

Which brings us to Mrs Merton’s alter ego Caroline Aherne, who passed away at the young age of 52. She was acclaimed as a comic genius, although I have to confess her humour was not on the same wavelength as mine. Her critically acclaimed Royale Family was one of the most popular comedies of its generation, some will say ever, but it completely passed me by as I found it as funny as a dose of the clap.

Another loss from that series was Liz Smith, who played Grandma in the series.

Another comic who I could never warm to was Ronnie Corbett. I loved The Two Ronnies but for me it was Barker who made the program and the one part when Corbett performed on his own, the monologue, was my cue to make a cup of tea. He branched out into sitcom some of which met with critical acclaim but they left me cold.

A comedienne who did make me smile was Victoria Wood, an accomplished actress and brilliant creative genius who passed away in April.

Two other writers we lost this year were Jimmy Perry who created many comedy programs, most notably Dad’s Army and Tony Warren the creator of the iconic soap Coronation Street.

Jean Alexander playing Hilda OgdenSpeaking of Corrie one of it’s most renown actresses, Jean  Alexander, who played Hilda Ogden also left us this year. Alexander was always surprised at the warmth her character received and she, herself, couldn’t be more removed from the character she portrayed. After leaving “The Street” she appeared in Last Of The Summer Wine as Aunty Wainwright.

Andrew Sachs was best known for playing Manuel in Fawlty Towers, however he was a very accomplished actor taking on both light and serious roles. He hit the headlines in 2008 when he was the victim of a tasteless, so called, funny prank by the odious Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross.

In politics, there were some notable losses as well, none more poignant than the death of Jo Cox, cold bloodedly murdered at the age of 41 by a right wing nutter. Whether you agree with her politics or not it should not have happened and it was an appalling loss.    

At the other age extreme two totally different former leaders died.

Shimon PeresShimon Peres was a former Prime Minister and President of Israel and was one of the founders of the state of Israel. Originally a hawk he became a dove and in 1994 he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.

By contrast Fidel Castro almost single handedly started World War Three when he allowed the Soviets to base nuclear missiles in Cuba resulting in the Cuban missile crisis in 1963. A terrorist and oppressive dictator the only surprise is he managed to hand onto power for so long.

Finally in sport there were some notable losses.

For those of my age Johan Cruyff was the epitome of gracious football and, arguably, one of the best and certainly most entertaining players ever.

I’m probably going to be controversial now but I was no fan of Cassius Clay who later changed his name to Mohamed Ali. Firstly I cannot abide boxing, it’s not a sport but legalised thuggery.

I didn’t like his attitude or his outspoken views, he was an arrogant man with no humility and although I don’t want to see anyone suffer physically, the way he did it has to be said was very much self inflicted by the career route he chose.

Arnold PalmerBy contrast the pure definition of sportsman was Arnold Palmer, arguably one of the greatest golfers to ever grace the game who passed away aged 87 in September this year. It’s said he is the man who single handedly saved the Open at a time when Americans tended to ignore it and treat it as a waste of time. Winning it twice he raised its profile in the US and the rest, as they say, is history.

Quite a list and that only scratches the surface,

RIP all of those who have passed in 2016

Others not mentioned above

January

Alan Rickman (69) Actor
Glenn Fry (67 Musician – The Eagles
Frank Finlay (89) Actor

February

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (93) Diplomat
Harper Lee (89) Novelist – To Kill A Mockingbird
Maurice White (74) Musician
Frank Kelly (77) Actor

March

Nancy Regan (94) Former First Lady
Garry Shandling (66) Actor
Keith Emerson (71) Rock Legend
Sylvia Anderson (88) “Lady Penelope”
Denise Robertson (83) Agony Aunt  

April

Prince (57) Musician
David Guest (62) TV Personality?

May

Bert Kwouk (85) Actor
Carla Lane (87) Scriptwriter

June

Anton Yelchin (27) Actor

August

Gene Wilder (83) Actor
Kenny Baker (81) R2-D2

October

Pete Burns (57) Musician
Bobby Vee (73) Singer

November

Leonard Cohen (82) Singer / Songwriter
Robert Vaughan (83) Actor

December

John Glenn (95) Astronaut / Politician
Zsa Zsa Gabor (99) Actress / Serial Wife
Peter Vaughan (93) Actor
Greg Lake (69) Musician
Ian McCaskill (78) Weatherman
Walter Swinburn (55) Jockey
George Michael (53) Singer