Well, this year is drawing to a close. In some parts of the world, it is already 2017. It isn’t quite noon in my neck of the woods, however, so there are still 13 hours left in what has been a year of sorrow. Still, it has had many joyful moments – for me and mine, at least!
I’m thankful to have not suffered any personal losses; for the health problems some of my family members have, they are still here – and I’m very happy and grateful for that. So, I’m starting off with the celebrity deaths that impacted me the most, which is my disclaimer for not mentioning every single one who passed – it’s quite a long list as it is, and I dedicated entire blog-posts to the most notable ones.
Natalie Cole: technically, she passed away on 31 December 2015, but her death wasn’t announced until 1 January of this year – so, I’m including her in the list. She was a phenomenal singer, and I loved the posthumous duet she did with her father, the late, great, Nat “King” Cole – the song “Unforgettable.”
David Bowie: A fantastic man, in my estimation. I loved his singing and his acting, and was shocked to hear of his passing on 10 January, a mere two days after his 69th birthday. He battled cancer quietly and privately, putting out an epic album during that time.
Monte Irvin: A great athlete and baseball player, who nearly broke the “colour barrier” in Major League Baseball before Jackie Robinson did, passed away on 11 January. He played seven seasons with the New York Giants, served as MLB’s first Black executive, and was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Alan Rickman: A fantastic actor, best known for his role as Professor Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” films, but also played roles in “Die Hard” and “Robin Hood: the Prince of Thieves.” He died on 14 January.
Dan Haggerty: The man who was “Grizzly Adams,” a show that I watched regularly when I was a child. The rugged, bearded, gentle giant roaming the forests and mountains with his bear companion, was always something to look forward to. He died of cancer on 15 January.
Jimmy Bain: The former bassist for Dio and Rainbow, died over the weekend of 22 – 24 January. I thoroughly enjoyed the music of both bands, and his bass-playing stood out in nearly every song that they played.
Abe Vigoda: The character actor best known for his roles in the movie “The Godfather,” and roles in television such as “Fish” and “Barney Miller,” died on 26 January at the age of 94.
Maurice White: One of the founding members of the fantastic group Earth, Wind, and Fire, died on 3 February. Their music was played often on the radio while I was growing up – one of many bands that influenced my musical tastes during my childhood and pre-teen years.
Keith Emerson: Musician, keyboardist and composer, best known for being one of the founders of the progressive rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer. He gained international notice for his work with the Nice, which included writing rock arrangements of classical music. He passed away on 11 March.
Prince (b. Prince Rogers Nelson): Fantastically versatile, a true genius of a performer. He was a singer and songwriter, a talented multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. His music was what I listened to quite a bit during my pre-teens, “teens-ages,” and early 20s. An iconic titan who only stood 5’3″, yet was head and shoulders above many other musicians during his time, in my estimation. He was taken far too soon, passing away on 21 April from an accidental overdose of Fentanyl, a powerful opioid-based painkiller. His death, and that of David Bowie, hit me the hardest.
Muhammad Ali (b. Cassius Clay): Boxing titan, named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated, and known worldwide as the greatest heavyweight champion. He was the youngest person to take the title away from a reigning champion, and soon after winning the title, he converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, which was a controversial move that drew the ire and hatred of most whites – even in this day and age. He died on 3 June.
Attrell Stephen Cordes, Jr.: Musician, singer, rapper, songwriter, and record producer, best known as the lead vocalist of the group P.M. Dawn, going by the stage name Prince Be. He was the frontman and lyricist for that excellent group, blending rap with singing, and adding ethereal beats and aspects of mysticism and crypto-Christian imagery to his songs. Both he and his band were “underappreciated and quietly influential,” according to the New York Times. I agree with, and can relate to that, 10,000%! He died 17 June. The song “You Got Me Floatin'” is done by P.M. Dawn, and is featured on the album Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
Bernie Worrell: Massively talented keyboardist and composer. He was one of the founders of Parliament-Funkadelic, who also did work with the Talking Heads, and died on 24 June. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Gene Wilder (b. Jerome Silberman): One of the funniest men I’ve ever had the joy of seeing on the big (and small) screen. I first saw him in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” when I was a kid, and he epitomized that role to perfection. He was a film and theatre actor, screenwriter, director, and author. Later on, after the death of his third wife, comedienne Gilda Radner, he became very active in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, founding an association in her name. He died on 29 August.
Gwen Ifill: A phenomenal, inspirational woman! She was an American Peabody-award winning journalist, newscaster, and author. She was the first African-American woman to host a nationally televised U.S. public-affairs program with Washington Week in Review, and was the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week. She also co-anchored PBS NewsHour, and was the co-managing editor of that program. Her best-selling book is Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. She died on 14 November.
Sharon Jones: Soul and funk singer, best known as the lead singer of the group Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, who were based in Brooklyn, New York. Fame found her later in life than many singers, male or female, but she made herself well-known during that brief, shining moment. She died from complications of cancer on 18 November.
Greg Lake: Bassist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, and producer. He gained prominence as a founding member of the progressive rock bands King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. He wrote the ELP hit song “Lucky Man” at the age of 12, and became a full-time musician at the age of 17. He died of cancer on 7 December.
Yes, I know…there are many others who I’ve probably missed due to all of the hectic political nonsense of this year, but I did say that I was listing the people who had an impact or influence on me and in my life!
On the personal level, 2016 was relatively quiet. Tightening up our budget and making house repairs cut into any long-distance travel, but we managed to make it to my very first convention: PAX West 2016 in Seattle, Washington! It was fun to attend, crowds notwithstanding, because I got the chance to meet some of the people behind the scenes of the game that I’m unashamedly obsessed with: The Elder Scrolls Online. I took tons of pictures, got my face and character avatar on their live Twitch broadcast, and geeked out in general! I don’t get to do that often, so I enjoyed myself more than I expected to. I definitely need to get some sort of cosplay gear ready for the next time…yes, there will be a ‘next time!’
As far as resolutions, I have none. I never really make resolutions anyway, because as far as I’m concerned, resolutions are a daily thing. For example, learning something new on a regular basis is something that I strive for. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also a good habit, which allows me to indulge in decadent food or drink from time to time…I don’t believe in self-denial, LOL! So, why make a resolution once per year? It’s more satisfying, for me, to be resolute every day.
With that, I’m turning on the end-of-year jukebox, so crank it up and rip off the knob! Here are my 10 selected songs to ring in 2017. Enjoy, stay safe, don’t drink and drive, don’t text and drive…hell, just don’t drive! I’ll talk at you all next year – later, ‘gators!