With 2020 making its way to our rearview mirrors, we take a look back at some of the greats we lost this year. Their contributions to their respective fields have left a significant impact on the world they left behind, and they will forever be in our hearts.
Chadwick Boseman (Actor)
1976 – 2020
The actor, most popularly known for his portrayal of T’Challa in Marvel Cinematic Universe as Black Panther, Chadwick was a recognized face across the world. His first major role was in the series Persons Unknown, after which he played a baseball player in the gripping Jackie Robinson biography film called 42. He was always known for stage performances and was a part of the hip hop theatre movement, writing and starring in plays like Rhyme Deferred and Hieroglyphic Graffiti. His first television role was seen in Third Watch. Boseman was always a pleasant, honest, and happy face on the screen, taking on the extents of various roles he was cut out for. We lost Boseman to Colon cancer, which was first diagnosed at stage III in 2016, but later progressed to stage IV in 2016. He will be missed.
Kobe Bryant (Basketball Player)
1978 – 2020
Kobe was one of the most legendary basketball players of our time! He was a part of the popular NBA team the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA championships. He was an 18-time All-Star, top NBA scorer twice, and was fondly referred to as Black Mamba, a name he had given to himself. He was a two-time Gold Medalist at the Olympics as a member of the US National team. He even won an Academy Award for the Best Animated Short Film for Dear Basketball in 2017 and had three MVP titles to his name. Unfortunately in January, he died in a helicopter crash in California at the age of 41, along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others. There were tributes across the world in memory of the player.
David Prowse (Actor)
1935 – 2020
We know, yet aren’t aware of David Prowse. His most significant career-defining moment was playing Darth Vader in the original Star Wars Trilogy. A strong character in pop culture even today, his success as Vader made him popular in the UK, making him the Green Cross Man, a superhero created to promote road safety rules among children! He was also a bodybuilder and weightlifter, participating in British and Commonwealth weightlifting competitions in 1962. You may have also seen him as Julian, Frank Alexander’s bodyguard in A Clockwork Orange, and more roles in Doctor Who, Ace of Wands, and more. Prowse was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), for his road safety and charity services. He passed away at the age of 85 due to a short, unspecified illness.
Sean Connery (Actor)
1930 – 2020
Referred to as Sir Sean Connery, he was another legendary actor probably most of our parents knew as the first-ever James Bond from 1962-1971. The Scottish actor was only playing theater and television roles until his big break as James Bond, featuring in path-breaking Bond movies such as Dr. No, Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. His claim to fame also involved many other movies like Marnie, Highlander, Murder on the Orient Express, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and many more. He’s been nominated for and won some of the most prestigious awards for acting including an Oscar, BAFTA Awards and Golden Globes. He died at the age of 90, found dead in his sleep. His wife claimed he had dementia and a few other complications in his last few years. He will be remembered as one of the best actors of his time.
Eddie Van Halen (Guitar Player)
1955 – 2020
Eddie Van Halen is one of the most iconic musical figures of all time. The guitarist and songwriter was the founder of the rock band Van Halen, which he co-founded with his brother Alex (drummer) in 1972. Van Halen made famous the guitar playing technique called tapping, changing the idea of how you could play fast arpeggios on the fretboard itself, revolutionizing rhythm and solo guitar playing sections forever. He had worked on several musical projects, including soundtracks, and his numerous collaborations with Gene Simmons (KISS), Roger Waters, LL Cool J, and more. Besides all of this, it was widely known that anyone who knew Van Halen, knew what an incredibly amazing person he was. He was kind, generous, and always ready to help people in need. In 2017, he donated 75 guitars from his personal guitar collection to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, a foundation that helps musicians from low-income groups learn and produce music. The smaller charities he did too, never went unnoticed. This wonderful person, unfortunately, passed away at the age of 65, battling throat and lung cancer in the past few years. He will be remembered in history as one of the greatest guitarists to have lived.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Associated Justice)
1933 – 2020
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg, passed away at the age of 87 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. During her 17-year career within the court, RBG became a household name with regards to her revolutionary work towards gender equality and women’s right, bagging her the name ‘The Notorious RBG’. Ginsburg has been awarded the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award, the Berggruen Prize, and a place in the National Woman’s Hall of Fame, among various other achievements.
Naya Rivera (Actor)
1987 – 2020
Long-time sitcom actress and singer, Naya Rivera, passed away on the 8th of July 2020 in an accidental boat drowning. Fans and co-workers across the world were in shock when news of the rescue of Rivera’s 4-year-old son surfaced shortly after the pair went missing from their rented pontoon boat, with no sign of Rivera herself. After a six-day search, her body was found, and a thorough investigation ensued. According to reports from Ventura County Police, Rivera succumbed to the lake’s currents but managed to get her son on the boat before drowning. Naya Rivera was 33-years-old. She is best known for her role as Santana Lopez in GLEE.
Diana Rigg (Actor)
1938 – 2020
English stage and screen performer, Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg passed away due to cancer at the age of 82 on 10 September 2020. While her most recent notable role is of Olenna Tyrell on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Rigg first rose to fame with her portrayal of Emma Peel in The Avengers (1960). In 1969, she starred in the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, becoming the first Bond Girl to marry the fictitious MI6 Agent himself. Rigg was awarded Best Actress during the 2000 BAFTA TV Awards, going on to further bag both the TONY Award for Best Actress and an Emmy Award, during the ’90s.
Fred Willard (Actor)
1933 – 2020
Best-known for his role as Hank MacDougall in the American sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond and Frank Dunphy on ABC’s Modern Family, American actor/comedian/writer became a staple for television since his debut in the late 1970’s. He passed away on June 3 at the age of 86, of a heart attack. During his long career within Hollywood, Willard made several iconic appearances in various popular productions, such as his portrayal of Shelby Forthright in Pixar’s Wall-E and Dad in Monster House. In 2015, Willard bagged a Daytime Emmy Award after several nominations through the years for his work within comedy. Coincidentally, his character got a heartfelt send-off on the final season of Modern Family.
Fred ‘Curly’ Neal (Basketball Player)
1942 – 2020
March 26th of 2020 saw the death of American Basketball player Frederick Neal after 22 seasons with the Globetrotters. Neal has made appearances in various animated and live-action films and television shows, such as the animated cartoon TV series, Harlem Globetrotters and The New Scooby-Doo Movies. After the announcement of his retirement on January 11th, 2008, Neal was given a spot in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. He passed at the age of 77 in his house near Houston, Texas. The cause of his death has not been publicly announced.
Little Richard (Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer)
1932 – 2020
Richard Wayne Penniman, more famously known as Little Richard – the self-proclaimed ‘King and Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ – passed away on May 9th this year at the age of 87. The legendary blues-rock singer is best known for his smash 1957 hit ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘Lucille’, ‘Miss Molly’, and ‘Good Golly’. Little Richard influenced the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and others with his pounding pianos, booming vocals, and flamboyant, gender-bending personality. His back and forth music career left a huge impact on rock ‘n’ roll. The singer’s lawyer, Bill Sobel, disclosed the cause of death as bone cancer. He is survived by his son, Danny Jones Penniman.
Chi Chi DeVayne (Drag Queen)
1985 – 2020
Chi Chi DeVayne, stage name of former Rupaul’s Drag Race Alumni Zavion Davenport, succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 34 on August 20th. Chi Chi was best known to compete in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 in 2016 and in Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3 in 2018. Her terrific lip-syncing skills, quick wit, and sultry southern slang won the hearts of many during the reality series. In 2018, she notified her fans on Instagram that she had been diagnosed with scleroderma, a chronic ailment affecting internal organs. She was first hospitalized in July for a suspected kidney failure and high blood pressure but eventually got discharged. Fans and colleagues mourned the loss of their beloved Drag Queen.
SP Balasubrahmanyam (Singer, Actor)
1946 – 2020
Legendary Indian veteran playback singer SP Balasubrahmanyam or SPB died suffering a cardiorespiratory arrest. SPB, 74, took his final breath on 25th September at MGM Healthcare hospital in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. He remained in critical condition after testing positive for COVID-19 on August 5th. Despite testing negative a month later, SPB continued to be on a ventilator.
The iconic singer has lent his voice to over 40,000 songs in more than 5 Indian languages (Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi) in his 55 years career. Apart from singing, he also brandished as an actor, anchor, and dubbing artist in the south Indian industry. The loss of SPB, a Padma Shri, and Padma Bhushan recipient, was felt gravely in the entertainment industry and to his fans.
Saroj Khan (Bollywood Choreographer)
1948 – 2020
Bollywood’s first female choreographer, Saroj Khan, passed away on July 3 due to a sudden cardiac arrest aged 71. In her sumptuous forty years career, she has choreographed over 2000 songs, including evergreen songs Ek Do Teen from the movie Tezaab, Hawa Hawai from Mr. India, and Choli Ke Peechay Kya Hai from Khalnayak (1993). Some of her best works were with actors Madhuri Dixit-Nene and the late Sridevi.
Saroj Khan entered the Bollywood industry at the age of 3 as a child actress in the 1950s and evolved as an assistant choreographer at 12-years-old. She has received three National Awards and eight Filmfare Awards.
Rishi Kapoor (Actor)
One of the most beloved veterans in the Indian film industry, Rishi Kapoor died of leukemia on 30 April at the age of 67. Kapoor’s life on-screen had begun at the mere age of 3 when he starred in Raj Kapoor’s Shree 420 in 1955. At the age of 21, Kapoor starred in the lead role in Bobby which marked his onset into the industry. Since then, Kapoor had starred in over a hundred different films of which some were commercial hits at the box office including Laila Majnu, Amar Akbar Anthony, Coolie, while others like Do Dooni Chaar, Aurangzeb, Mulk were highly critically acclaimed.
In his 50 years of an acting career, he has been the recipient of numerous awards and accolades including the National Film Awards, several Filmfare Awards, and Awards of the International Indian Film Academy.
Sushant Singh Rajput (Actor)
The highly revered outlier of Bollywood, Sushant Singh Rajput had hailed from Bihar with no connections in the industry. After having dropped out of his engineering degree, he went on to study theater and eventually bagged the lead role in Pavitra Rishta in 2009. Rajput’s Bollywood debut came in 2013 with Kai Po Che! which then paved the way for him to star in several commercially successful movies like M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, PK, Chhichhore.
He later went on to become the co-founder of Innsaei Ventures in 2018 and started Front India for World Foundation non-profit in 2020.
Rajput passed away from asphyxia in an act of suicide on 14 June at the age of 34.
Soumitra Chatterjee (Actor)
1935 – 2020
Veteran Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee passed away on 15 November after having contracted Coronavirus at the age of 85. Chatterjee’s career shone as an actor, director, writer, poet and playwright during the 61 long years of his career. He worked closely with Satyajit Ray for several years as a grown-up Apu in The Apu Trilogy; as Feluda in Sonar Kella, Joi Baba Felunath. These movies proved to be some of Chatterjee’s and Ray’s most beloved and revered works and are considered Bengali classics. Chatterjee never ventured into Bollywood because he believed that would restrict his creative growth and curiosity.
Over the course of his career, he was awarded with the Padma Bhushan in 2004, three National Film Awards, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2012. In the 1970s, Chatterjee had turned down the Padma Shri award.
Irrfan Khan (Actor)
Bollywood’s “man next door” and Hollywood crossover actor, Sahabzade Irfan Ali Khan, aka Irrfan Khan, passed away at the age of 53 after having suffered from a neuroendocrine tumor on 29 April. Considered to be the underdog in Indian cinema, Khan rose to success and popularity with his nuanced portrayals of the Indian common man. Having hailed from a non-Bollywood family had allowed him to take the risks of playing a range of characters like Ashoke in The Namesake, to Pi Patel in Life of Pi; to Saajan Fernandes in The Lunchbox to Maqbool in Maqbool, for all of which he was thoroughly loved and appreciated on screen.
In his thirty glorious years of being on screen, Khan received a number of national and international accolades including the several Filmfare Awards, IIFA awards. He had also received the Padma Shri honor in 2011.