Stars We Lost in 2015
Legendary singer Natalie Cole, daughter of Nat King Cole and Maria Hawkins Cole, died at 65 on New Year's Eve. "It is with heavy hearts that we bring to you all the news of our Mother and sister’s passing. Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived ... with dignity, strength and honor,” Cole’s sisters, Timolin Cole and Casey Cole, and her son, Robert Yancy, said in a statement provided to EW. "Our beloved Mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain UNFORGETTABLE in our hearts forever." Cole won nine Grammys, and released such hit songs "This Will Be," "Inseparable," and "Unforgettable," a duet performed with vocals from her late father.
Oscar-nominated actor Robert Loggia was 85 when he died Dec. 4 at his Los Angeles home after a five-year battle with Alzeheimer’s disease. The New York native frequently played tough-guy roles, as a drug dealer in Scarface, a hard-living sailor in An Officer and a Gentleman, a mobster in Prizzi’s Honor, and a prickly private detective in Jagged Edge. He didn’t always play the heavy, though. One of his most memorable turns was that of a kindly toy company owner in Big, for which he danced on a giant light-up keyboard alongside Tom Hanks, tapping out “Heart and Soul” and “Chopsticks.”
Famed Stone Temple Pilots musician Scott Weiland died Dec. 3 at the age of 48. The former lead singer of the rock band "passed away in his sleep while on a tour stop in Bloomington, Minnesota, with his band The Wildabouts," according to a statement posted to his Facebook page. The late rocker dedicated recent years to touring and recording with The Wildabouts after he spent years with Stone Temple Pilots and teamed up with Slash, Dave Kushner, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum for the supergroup Velvet Revolver. Weiland is survived by two children and his wife, Jamie Wachtel.
Vincent 'Don Vito' Margera
Jackass alum Vincent "Don Vito" Margera died November 15 at the age of 59. The reality star and uncle to skateboarder and actor Bam Margera went into a coma in October after being diagnosed with kidney and liver failure, according to a report from TMZ. Known widely as Don Vito, the late Margera appeared on Jackass, Viva la Bam, and various spinoffs and supplemental releases to the two shows.
One Life to Live star Nathaniel Marston died on Nov. 11 at the age of 40. The actor's mother broke the news of his death after he spent nearly two weeks on life support following an Oct. 30 car crash. "My beloved and cherished son, Nathaniel Marston, who was putting up the good fight until last night, was not able to continue due to the traumatic and devastating nature of his injuries," the late star's mother wrote on Facebook. "Nathaniel passed away peacefully as I held him in my arms." Marston had more than two decades in the industry before his death, becoming a soap opera staple with the eight combined years he spent on One Life to Live and As the World Turns.
Famed musician Allen Toussaint died on Nov. 9 at the age of 77. He passed away in Madrid, Spain, where he was traveling for his latest tour. Toussaint spent more than 50 years in the music business before his death, recording his own music as well as writing and producing for other artists. The late New Orleans legend worked with stars from Paul McCartney to Paul Simon and is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Actor Gunnar Hansen died on Nov. 7 at the age of 68. According to the Associated Press, Hansen died in his home in Maine due to pancreatic cancer. The star, who was born in Iceland, had an illustrious career full of roles in horror films, for which he was beloved. Best known for his turn as Leatherface in 1974's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hansen also appeared in 1988’s Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, 1991’s Campfire Tales, and 1995's Mosquito, among others.
Acclaimed screenwriter Melissa Mathison passed away on Nov. 4 at the age of 65. The star, who had Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations to her name, died in Los Angeles after suffering complications due to neuroendocrine cancer. Mathison spent decades in Hollywood, rising to fame with her screenwriting credits for 1979's The Black Stallion and 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. She also wrote The Indian in the Cupboard's screenplay and recently adapted Roald Dahl's beloved novel The BFG for a 2016 big-screen production. The writer is survived by her two children, Malcolm Carswell Ford and Georgia Ford, whom she shared with ex-husband Harrison Ford.
Fred D. Thompson, former U.S. senator for Tennessee and successful actor with more than 50 credits to his name, died on Nov. 1, 2015 at the age of 73. The family cited a “recurrence of lymphoma” as cause of death. After beginning his law career in 1967, Thompson was appointed Republican counsel to the Watergate committee investigating Richard Nixon and the White House in 1973. In the ’80s, Thompson began acting and appeared on TV and in such films as No Way Out, Feds, The Hunt for Red October, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Cape Fear, Days of Thunder, Necessary Roughness, and In the Line of Fire.
Thompson, who was a Republican senator for the state of Tennessee for eight years, was elected in 1994 to replace Al Gore, who had just become vice president. He won reelection in 1996, and served for six years until 2002. That same year, he appeared on Law & Order as D.A. Arthur Branch, a role he would play on 116 episodes of the show (and in other appearances on spinoffs Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Trial By Jury.)
Kevin Corcoran, who was perhaps best known for his childhood role in 1957's Old Yeller passed away on Oct. 6, 2015 at the age of 66. The actor and director died due to complications from cancer in Santa Monica, Calif., his niece confirmed to EW. The late star got an early start as the character Moochie is various Mickey Mouse projects in the 1950s, and stepped behind the camera in recent years with directing projects for television.
Billy Joe Royal
Pop-country singer Billy Joe Royal died at the age of 73 on Oct. 6, 2015. The performer's death was confirmed in a tweet by singer BJ Thomas, who wrote, "My best friend Billy Joe Royal, died this morning. He was a sweet and talented man. Never a bad word. One of a kind." Over the course of his career, Royal released more than a dozen studio albums and topped the charts with singles such as "Down in the Boondocks" and "Cherry Hill Park."
Catherine E. Coulson
Beloved for her turn as the Log Lady on Twin Peaks, Catherine E. Coulson passed away on Sept. 28 at the age of 71. The veteran actress, who was expected to appear in the upcoming Twin Peaks reboot, died after battling cancer. In addition to her work on the 1990 ABC show, Coulson also stepped behind the camera in her career, serving as a camera assistant on Stark Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Youngblood. "Today I lost one of my dearest friends, Catherine Coulson," Twin Peaks co-creator David Lynch Lynch said in a statement to EW. "Catherine was solid gold. She was always there for her friends. She was filled with love for all people — for her family, for her work. She was a tireless worker. She had a great sense of humor — she loved to laugh and make people laugh. She was a spiritual person — a longtime TM meditator. She was the Log Lady."
Best known for her role as Batgirl in the 1960s TV series Batman, Craig was 78 when she died Aug. 17 after a two-year battle with breast cancer. In addition to her roles in several films – including two with Elvis Presley: It Happened at the World’s Fair and Kissin’ Cousins – Craig had a steady TV career on series like The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Fantasy Island, The Six Million Dollar Man, Kojak, Mod Squad, and 77 Sunset Strip. More recently, Craig voiced Grandma in Nickelodeon’s 2009 cartoon series Olivia.
Cole, who starred on the popular British series Minder, died August 5 at age 90. The actor became a household name to British viewers thanks to his nearly 16-year run playing the criminal and con man Arthur Daley on the series about the seedy London underworld.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper
Renowned WWE wrestler Roddy Piper, widely known as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, was 61 when he died peacefully in his sleep on July 30. Piper was known as one of wrestling’s bad boys, so much that WWE crowned him as the sport’s greatest villain during his lengthy career. He began wrestling in 1969 and fought in over 7,000 matches until his retirement in 2011. He also made his way to the silver screen in the ‘80s, earning cult status as the hero of John Carpenter’s campy but political sci-fi satire They Live.
Bobbi Kristina Brown
The daughter of R&B singer Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston died July 26 at the age of 22. Brown had been hospitalized and in hospice care for nearly six months after she was found unresponsive in the bathtub of her Atlanta home. “She is finally at peace in the arms of God,” the Houston family said in statement.
Credited in the very first episode of Saturday Night Live, the actor appeared in multiple episodes during the show's first season. He appeared on dozens of TV shows over the years, and recently gained renewed notoriety for his voice work as Woodhouse, the elderly butler on FX’s animated comedy Archer. Coe died July 18 at the age of 86.
Best known for playing mobster Moe Green in The Godfather, Rocco's long career extended from blockbuster films like Get Shorty and A Bug's Life to appearances on TV shows including The Simpsons, ER, and, most recently, Maron. Rocco died of cancer July 18 at the age of 79.
The Welsh actor was a staple of the small screen for much of the past three decades, with particularly memorable roles as Robin Colcord on Cheers and Lord John Marbury on The West Wing. Rees also appeared on shows including Law & Order, Grey's Anatomy, The Good Wife, and Elementary. He died July 10 at the age of 71.
The Egyptian-born actor was one of the biggest names in Hollywood during the ‘60s, thanks to his performance in 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia. The role scored him two Golden Globes – for Best Supporting Actor and New Star of the Year – and launched a half-century career with starring parts in classic flicks including Doctor Zhivago and Funny Girl. Sharif’s death was caused by a heart attack in Cairo on July 10. He was 83.
The character actor, perhaps most familiar for playing George Jefferson’s occasional bodyguard on The Jeffersons, died July 8 at his home. Keyes died of acromegaly, a rare pituitary gland disorder, and had been in a rehabilitation center in the months prior to his passing. He was 63.
The superproducer and Hollywood legend, whose most notable work includes 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven reboot and subsequent franchise, The Karate Kid franchise, and 1982’s Diner, died July 6 from cardiac arrest at age 77. His last project was executive producing Behind the Candelabra in 2013.
Diana Douglas Webster
Mother of actor Michael Douglas and former wife of Kirk Douglas, Diana Douglas Webster died of cancer July 4 at age 92. The actress starred as Peg in Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but also made appearances on Days of Our Lives, The West Wing, and ER.
Best known for her starring role in the 1987 romantic comedy Can’t Buy Me Love, the actress passed away on July 3 at age 43.
Yes bassist and co-founder Chris Squire was 67 when he passed away on June 27, just over a month after revealing he was suffering from a rare form of leukemia. Squire performed with Yes for nearly 50 years, and was the only member that played on all of its albums.
The Avengers star died on June 25 at 93 of natural causes. The actor played John Steed, an agent who knew his way around an umbrella, on the ‘60s British spy TV series, and went on to reprise his role in the ‘70s sequel The New Avengers. Additionally, Macnee appeared in the 1985 James Bond film A View to Kill, and co-wrote two memoirs, Blind in One Ear and The Avengers: The Inside Story.
Dick Van Patten
Dick Van Patten, who played TV dad Tom Bradford on the 70’s hit Eight is Enough, passed away on June 23 at age 86 due to complications from diabetes. The actor also appeared in Mel Brooks’ Space Balls and Robin Hood Men In Tights, among a number of other films, and had an extended career on Broadway.
Famed film composer James Horner died in a private plane crash in Santa Barbara, California, on June 22 at the age of 61. The Oscar and Grammy winner composed music for more than 150 films and TV series, and was renowned for writing the film score to Titanic and co-writing its theme song, “My Heart Will Go On.” Other major credits include Apollo 13, Avatar, and The Amazing Spider-Man, among many more.
Christopher Lee died at the age of 93 on June 7, the result of respiratory problems and heart failure. The actor, whose career spanned nearly 70 years, was an iconic movie villain best known for his role as the bloodthirsty Dracula in a number of Hammer films. In the 2000s, Lee came into the Hollywood blockbuster spotlight, playing the wizard Saruman in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films and Sith lord Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels.
Virgil Runnels, more commonly known by his wrestling name Dusty Rhodes, passed away on June 11 at the age of 69. Also nicknamed “The American Dream,” Rhodes was a professional wrestler for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.
The jazz great, whose musical career spanned nearly six decades, was 85 when he died on June 11 from cardiac arrest. After signing with Atlantic Records in the late ‘50s, the experimental musician produced some of the most influential jazz records of all time.
Brooklyn rapper Robert Alan Diaz, known by his stage name Pumpkinhead, was known best for his 1997 breakthrough single “Dynamic” and his 2005 album Orange Moon Over Brooklyn. He passed away on June 9 at the age of 39.
The Philadelphia-based singer and street performer made his debut during season 8 of The Voice with a soulful cover of James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” that had all four coaches fighting to have him on their team. He quickly became a fan favorite, but left the show after only a few episodes. Riley later told the Philadelphia Inquirer he was struggling with substance abuse and left The Voice to enter rehab. He passed away on June 5 at the age of 28.
Palmer died at the age of 88 on May 29. She played Jason Voorhees' mother in the first two Friday the 13th films, a role she said she only took to help pay for a new car. Palmer also appeared on a slew of TV shows, such as Murder, She Wrote, Knots Landing, and Charles in Charge.
Rey was best known for playing Red's (DJ Pooh) father in Friday, but there was an entire career before that's largely unknown. Rey was a teacher and opened for influential stand-up comic Redd Foxx for 18 years, who later became Rey's manager for 12 years. Rey died May 28 of complications following a stroke at 75.
Sheehan was U2's tour manager and died of a reported heart attack on May 27 in Los Angeles while the band was in town. He was 68. Sheehan had run the band's tours for more than 30 years and was an integral part of their careers. "We've lost a family member, we're still taking it in," Bono said in a statement. "He wasn't just a legend in the music business, he was a legend in our band. He is irreplaceable."
Mary Ellen Trainor
Trainor played police psychiatrist Stephanie Woods in all four Lethal Weapon films and also appeared in Forrest Gump and Back to the Future Part II, both directed by her one-time husband Robert Zemeckis. She died May 20 due to pancreatic cancer.
The 31-year-old rapper was the victim of a drive-by shooting on May 17. Born Lionel Pickens, Chinx was part of French Montana's Coke Boys and known for his songs "Feelings" and "Bodies."
The legendary blues guitarist died May 14 at the age of 89 after a recent, prolonged list of health problems, some related to his publicized battle with diabetes. King is considered one of the most influential musicians ever and won a myriad of awards, including 15 Grammys and the Presidential Medial of Freedom.
The 94-year-old Wilson was a longtime character actress during a career that spanned over 60 years. Her most notable roles include playing Benjamin Braddock's mom in The Graduate — the first of four movies she appeared in directed by Mike Nichols — and Dorothy Van Doren in Quiz Show. Wilson won a Tony for her role in Stick and Bones, written by David Rabe. Wilson died May 9.
The Hot Chocolate frontman provided vocals to '70s standards "You Sexy Thing" and "It Started with a Kiss," among other cuts. On May 6, the singer died of liver cancer at age 71.
Ellen Albertini Dow
Grace Lee Whitney
Whitney only appeared on eight episodes of Star Trek, but quickly made a name for herself as Captain Kirk’s sometime love interest, Yeoman Janice Rand. She remained entrenched in the Star Trek world for the rest of her career, appearing in television shows, the first Star Trek film, and various sequels. She died May 1 at the age of 85.
Ben E. King
The Drifters lead singer (and sometimes co-writer) helped songs like “There Goes My Baby” and “Save the Last Dance for Me” rise to the top. But King’s true rise to fame came thanks to his single “Stand by Me” in 1961. The song went on to become an R&B classic as well as the title of the popular 1986 film. King died April 30 at the age of 76.
The former singer of the Kingsmen is best remembered for his muffled voice behind the band’s 1963 hit song "Louie Louie." Shortly after the single was released, Ely left the Kingsmen to form a rival group named the Courtmen, who recorded their own song titled "Louie Louie '66" – this is not to be confused by his next group called Jack E. Lee and the Squires and their single "Love That Louie." Ely, who had long been suffering from an unspecified illness, died in his home in Richmond, Oregon, on April 27.
The Oscar-winning cinematographer spent more than a decade collaborating with director Peter Jackson on the six Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. The Sydney native also lent his talents to films including Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I Am Legend, and The Last Airbender. Lesnie died of a heart attack on April 27. He was 59.
Crough is best remembered as Tracy Partridge, the tambourine-shaking youngest daughter of the musical family at the center of the hit ‘70s sitcom The Partridge Family. She went on to do voiceover work in other shows, including Wonder Woman and Fred Flintstone and Friends. She died on April 27 at the age of 52.
From 1996-2005, Sweeten was a cornerstone of the Everybody Loves Raymond family, playing the role of Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton’s son along with his twin brother, Sullivan. The 19-year-old actor died from suspected suicide while in the Texas home his family was vacationing in on April 23.
Before the Canadian actor showed off his skills in the 2007 Broadway musical The Drowsy Chaperone, Crombie won over hearts and literary minds with his portrayal of the boy-next-door’s Gilbert Blythe in the Anne of Green Gables movies. Crombie died on April 15 from a brain hemorrhage. He was 48.
The legendary R&B singer was best known for bringing southern rock soul to a pop landscape with his 1966 hit “When A Man Loves A Woman.” The song went No. 1 soon after its release and spawned a series of covers, including a film title for the 1994 movie starring Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia. Sledge died April 14 from liver cancer at the age of 73.
Lewis was an accomplished actor appearing in several Clint Eastwood movies, including High Planes Drifter and Pink Cadillac, as well as smaller television roles throughout his career. He received a Golden Globe nomination for his work as Earl Tucker, a recurring role on the 1980 hit television series Flo. Lewis, the father of actress Juliette Lewis, died April 7 of natural causes at the age of 79.
Best known for his role as professional football player Keith on the CBS sitcom Good Times, Powers also had a regular role on another CBS show: the detective drama Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. Powers died April 6 at the age of 64.
The dermatologist, whose famous clientele included Madonna, Marc Jacobs, and Kelly Ripa, became known for his use of Botox when he opened his own practice in Miami in the early '80s. He was found dead at the age of 65 in his home, with the cause of death ruled a suicide.
The Emmy-winning actor starred on the acclaimed drama L.A. Law as the cranky senior partner Leland McKenzie, a role he landed in his late 50s after a career on Broadway and in films. He died of cancer April 5 at his home in Santa Monica. He was 86.
The rock drummer, a founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, was 64 when he died in a car crash near his Georgia home on April 3. Burns appeared on the band's first two albums and, after leaving for three decades, rejoined them onstage at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony performance in 2006.
The first wife of The Beatles' John Lennon, who chronicled their troubled marriage in two memoirs, died at age 75 in her home in Mallorca, Spain, after battling cancer. "If I'd known as a teenager what falling for John Lennon would lead to," she once said, "I would have turned 'round right then and walked away." The two had one son, Julian, born April 1963.
Cristie Schoen Codd
The former Food Network Star contestant, 38, was five-months pregnant when she and husband Joseph J.T. Codd, 45, were murdered in North Carolina. Search warrants revealed contractor Robert Jason Owens, who had done some work on the Codds' home, admitted that he "stored and destroyed" the bodies of the two victims, with their remains inside a woodstove in his home. According to authorities, the couple died on March 12. Cristie Codd had appeared on the eighth season of The Next Food Network Star in 2012, and also appeared in films like Mona Lisa Smile and Get On Up.
The co-writer and co-director of Still Alice was diagnosed with ALS before he began work on the Oscar-winning film about a woman diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. His battle with an incurable disease influenced the way he approached Alzheimer's in the project, a move the film's star Julianne Moore told EW was "really quite touching." Glatzer died of ALS at 63 on March 10.