2016 certainly hasn’t gotten off to a very cheery start. We’re hardly four weeks into the New Year, and the world has already lost a number of talented individuals, including composer Pierre Boulez, entertainment manager René Angélil, the Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey, Mott the Hoople drummer Dale Griffin, and actor Dan Haggerty.
But January really broke our hearts by claiming two of the most prominent names in the entertainment industry in quick succession. Singer David Bowie and actor Alan Rickman passed away within days of each other this month. In an uncanny coincidence, both the British legends – who both came from humble beginnings and went on to achieve global fame – died after a battle with cancer at the age of 69.
David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016)
He was Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane, the Goblin King…
But before all that, he was David Robert Jones, a young man from Brixton, London, whose passion for music set him on the course to become one of the world’s most influential artists. He spent his teens striving to get his breakthrough with a succession of bands, before going solo in the late 1960s, adopting the name “Bowie” after the double-edged knife popularized by American pioneer Jim Bowie. But it wasn’t until the sweeping Hunky Dory (1971) and the ground-breaking The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) – the concept album about “a bisexual alien rock superstar” – that the artist truly came into his own, merging theatrics and curiosity to create a defining concoction of rock and roll.
Over the next decades – and over the course of 25 studio releases – he’d adopt many personas, but each incarnation would come with artistic poise and musical depth, cementing his place as one of the most innovative, interesting, and iconic names in music history. He championed change and acceptance, and helped pave the path for other artists to express themselves in their own creative ways. He released his final album, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday, just two days prior to his death from liver cancer. His music and style, though, will forever live on and will undoubtedly continue to inspire young artists for generations to come.
Alan Rickman (21 February 1946 – 14 January 2016)
Few actors have had careers as wide-ranging and versatile as that of acclaimed British actor Alan Rickman. To younger viewers, he was Severus Snape, the dark, mysterious character in the Harry Potter franchise. To the rest of us, he was so much more.
The London native rose from a working class family in Acton to conquer both stage and screen, impressing the world with his intense acting and distinctive, unforgettable voice. From working with the Royal Shakespeare Company to starring in everything from action blockbusters to romantic dramas, Rickman made his mark on every project he graced. He portrayed many iconic characters; Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988), Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (1995), Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest (1999), the straying husband Harry in Love Actually (2003), the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) … the list goes on and on.
Not only was he was a patron on the arts, but he also changed lives with his charity work. One of his last acts was to voice a video for a charity project just prior to his death from pancreatic cancer earlier this month. Viewers of all ages with miss the man of many faces and his magnificent voice, and his absence will be deeply felt in the world of stage and cinema.