Stars we lost in 2020
Let's Stay Together actor Bert Belasco died at 38. The BET star was found dead in his hotel room in Virginia where he was quarantining in preparation of an upcoming movie role. In addition to playing Charles Whitmore on Let's Stay Together, Belasco appeared on Fox's Pitch and multiple episodes of Showtime's I'm Dying Up Here. He also had brief stints on shows like Justified, Superstore, NCIS: New Orleans, Key & Peele, and House.
Longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek died Nov. 8 at age 80 following a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. A career emcee, Trebek began hosting game shows in his native Canada. He moved to the U.S. in the '70s to emcee The Wizard of Odds and High Rollers for NBC, as well as Double Dare and Pillsbury Bake-Off for CBS. He joined Jeopardy! in 1984, but continued holding the mic for shows like The National Geographic Bee from 1989-2013 and To Tell the Truth from 1990-91. In 2011, Trebek earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Daytime Emmys. He's also won seven Emmys for Outstanding Game Show host. In 2014, Guinness World Records announced that Trebek had broken the record for the most game show episodes hosted by the same person on the same program.
Carol Arthur, Blazing Saddles actress and wife of Dom DeLuise, died on Oct. 31 after an 11-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was 85.
The Great British Baking Show season 5 runner-up Luis Troyano died at age 48 following a battle with esophageal cancer. Troyano won Star Baker during his respective season's notoriously difficult Bread Week. Judge Paul Hollywood and season 7 winner Candice Brown were among GBBS alums who paid tribute to the Cheshire native on social media, with the latter writing: "Oh my goodness this is just heartbreaking. Luis was a complete gent and we had some great giggles at festivals. Send love and strength to his friends and family."
Nikki McKibbin, American Idol season 1 finalist, died after suffering an aneurysm on Nov. 28. She was 42.
Sean Connery, the Scotland-born actor who was the first star to play James Bond and became one of the franchise's most iconic stars, has died at the age of 90. The Oscar winner died in his sleep while in the Bahamas, according to the BBC, and had reportedly been unwell for some time.
Billy Joe Shaver
Outlaw country singer/songwriter Billy Joe Shaver died in Waco, Texas on Oct. 28 after suffering a massive stroke. Shaver found success as a performer but was more famously known for writing some of the biggest hits performed by superstars like Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Kris Kristofferson.
Jerry Jeff Walker
Jerry Jeff Walker, a singer-songwriter and influential country musician known for penning the popular song "Mr. Bojangles," died Oct. 23 after a long battle with throat cancer. He was 78. Walker was a well-known figure in the Austin, Texas music scene and helped pioneer the "outlaw country" genre alongside such artists as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Michael Martin Murphey.
Anthony Chisholm, a veteran actor of stage, film, and television and frequent collaborator of playwright August Wilson, died Oct. 16 at age 77. He appeared in such films as the cult classic Putney Swope and Spike Lee's Chi-Raq, and played Burr Redding on HBO's Oz for three seasons. On stage, he earned a Tony Award nomination for his performance in Wilson's Radio Golf.
Conchata Ferrell, the character actress known for her role as the witty housekeeper Berta on Two and a Half Men, died Oct. 12 of complications from a cardiac arrest after several months in poor health. She was 77. Ferrell appeared in over 100 films and TV shows, including Mystic Pizza, Edward Scissorhands, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Friends, and had a rare leading role in the acclaimed 1979 film Heartland, alongside Rip Torn.
Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen, influential guitarist and founding member of his namesake rock band Van Halen, died Oct. 6 from throat cancer. He was 65.
Bonni Lou Kern
Bonni Lou Kern, one of the original Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club, died Sept. 28 at age 79. Kern rose to fame when she appeared as a Mouseketeer in Disney's The Wonder Mouseketeers! At just 14 years old, Kern starred in the inaugural episode and she went on to appear on the spin-off film Save the Wonder Mouseketeers! During her time with Disney, Kern was presented with the Mousecar Award — the highest honor bestowed by the company — as well as the key to Fantasyland, according to her family.
Helen Reddy, the 1970s pop star and cultural icon behind the hit song "I Am Woman," died Sept. 29, at 78. Australian-born Reddy was regarded as a queen of 1970s pop, reigning as the world's top-selling female singer in 1973 and 1974. Her biggest hit, 1971's ″I Am Woman,″ catapulted Reddy to new heights as a feminist icon, and the song became the unofficial anthem of the women's movement. Her other hits included ″Delta Dawn,″ ″Angie Baby,″ Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress),″ and ″Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady.″ Reddy also made waves on screen, starring in her own weekly television variety program, The Helen Reddy Show, and appearing in Disney's Pete Dragon and Airport 1975.
Tommy DeVito, founding member of 60s group the Four Seasons, has died from COVID-19. He was 92. During DeVito's tenure with the group, alongside Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, and Nick Massi, the climbed the charts with hit songs "Big Girls Don't Cry," and "Sherry."
Michael Lonsdale died on Sept. 21 at age 89. The actor was best known for playing villainous Hugo Drax opposite Roger Moore's 007 in the 1979 James Bond adventure Moonraker. His many other film credits included The Day of the Jackal, Ronin, The Remains of the Day, Munich, and Of Gods and Men, for which he won a César award. On the small screen, Lonsdale appeared in the 1982 miniseries Smiley's People, based on the John le Carré novel of the same name.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Sept. 18 at the age of 87 from complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. Ginsburg was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a longtime legal champion of gender equality. She was appointed to the court by President Clinton in 1993. In her later years, she became a pop culture icon, referred to as "The Notorious RBG." Ginsburg was portrayed in 2018's On the Basis of Sex and in the same year was the subject of documentary RBG.
Dame Diana Rigg has died at the age of 82. According to her agent, the British actress died peacefully at her home with her family on Sept. 10. Rigg initially found fame in the U.K. playing Emma Peel opposite Patrick Macnee's John Steed in the classic adventure show The Avengers. In 1969, she starred with George Lazenby in the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service. While the film itself would be much-maligned, Rigg's performance as Tracy Bond has become a favorite among 007 fans. In more recent years, the actress played fan-favorite Olenna Tyrell in HBO's Game of Thrones.
Actor Kevin Dobson, best known for starring in TV dramas like Kojak and Knots Landing, died Sept. 6 of a heart attack. He was 77. Dobson starred as Det. Bobby Crocker on the popular CBS crime drama Kojak from 1973 to 1978. The network was also home to Knots Landing, the soap the actor appeared in as M. Patrick "Mack" Mackenzie from 1982 to 1993. Dobson won five Soap Opera Digest Awards for the role, including Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role: Prime Time. Later on in his career, Dobson made guest appearances on series like House of Lies and Anger Management, and his last role was in the upcoming sci-fi series 12 to Midnight.
The one-time lead singer of Motown group The Temptations died Sept. 6 at the age of 49 following a reported battle with COVID-19. Williamson was was a member of The Temptations from 2006 to 2015. As a Temptation, Williamson led the group in both concert and television performances. He featured on Temptations albums Back to Front and Still Here, as well as joined the group in a cameo in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
Erick Morillo, the DJ and producer known for his upbeat 1994 hit "I Like to Move It," was found dead in Miami on Sept 1. A cause of death was not immediately available.
Released under the stage name Reel 2 Real and featuring vocals by the Mad Stuntman, "I Like to Move It" propelled Morillo toward becoming a prominent member of the international house community. He was a three-time winner of Best House DJ at the DJ Awards, the most recent win being in 2009. The week of his death, Morillo was set to appear in court after being charged with sexual battery earlier in the year.
Clifford Robinson, an 18-year veteran of the NBA and onetime contestant on Survivor, died Aug. 29 of complications from lymphoma. He was 53. Robinson spent eight seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, helping the team reach the finals in 1990 and 1992, and later appeared on the 28th season of Survivor, Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty, in 2014.
Chadwick Boseman, who played Marvel superhero T'Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, in 2018's Black Panther, died at 43 of complications from colon cancer, it was announced on Aug. 28. The charismatic actor built his career playing historic Black icons, including barrier-breaking baseball player Jackie Robinson in 42, music icon James Brown in Get on Up, and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall. Boseman also appeared as T'Challa in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, and most recently, he starred in the crime drama 21 Bridges and Spike Lee's war drama Da 5 Bloods. He completed filming on the upcoming Netflix film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which is based on August Wilson's play and is expected to be Boseman's final film appearance.
Riley Gale, who is best known as the lead singer of thrash metal band Power Trip, died on Aug. 24 at age 34. A cause of death was not immediately known. Gale helped form the band in 2008. In 2009, their first EP Armageddon Blues was released, and was followed up by another EP, Power Trip, two years later. They went on to release two albums on Southern Lord: their 2013 debut Manifest Decimation and 2017’s Nightmare Logic. This was followed by a compilation album, Opening Fire: 2008-2014, in 2018. In 2019, Power Trip tweeted that they were at work on their third album.
Justin Townes Earle
Award-winning Americana singer and songwriter Justin Townes Earle has died at the age of 38. His first EP, Yuma, was released in 2007, and he released his full-length debut, The Good Life, the following year. He won the Americana Music Association's Emerging Artist of the Year award in 2009, and he won Song of the Year there in 2011 for his "Harlem River Blues." That song came off his third studio album of the same name, which was his highest debut on the Billboard 200 charts at 47. In total, he released eight full-length albums. His last, The Saint of Lost Causes, was released in May 2019.
Jack Sherman, a guitarist who played on the Red Hot Chili Peppers' debut album, died Aug. 18 of undisclosed causes. He was 64. The band announced Sherman's death on social media, writing, "We of the RHCP family would like to wish Jack Sherman smooth sailing into the worlds beyond, for he has passed....He was a unique dude and we thank him for all times good, bad and in between."
Frankie Banali, best known as the drummer for Quiet Riot and W.A.S.P, died Aug. 20 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 68. Banali joined Quiet Riot in 1982, and played on the group's breakthrough album Metal Health, which was the first heavy metal album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Banali was the only member of the group to play on every single one of their albums since Metal Health, and took over managing the band in 1993. He was also a longtime advocate for animal rescue, a spokesperson for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and a sponsor of Children International.
Chi Chi DeVayne
RuPaul's Drag Race star Chi Chi DeVayne died at age 34, EW learned on Aug. 20. DeVayne — the stage name of Zavion Davenport — was an accomplished entertainer who competed season 8 of Drag Race and returned for All-Stars 3. DeVayne had been hospitalized with suspected kidney failure. In addition to her appearances on RuPaul's Drag Race, DeVayne had a small part on season 1 of the Apple TV+ anthology dramedy Little America, appeared on fellow Drag Race alum Yuhua Hamasaki's Bootleg Opinions YouTube series, and guested on an episode of the popular queer talk show Hey Qween in addition to her various performing gigs and tours as a drag artist.
Trini Lopez, the singer and actor known for his rendition of "If I Had a Hammer" and his role in The Dirty Dozen, died August 11 from complications of COVID-19 in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 83.