Notable Deaths of 2012

by M-Gillies

Many celebrities were laid to rest in 2012.

From musicians to actors, journalists and authors, to astronauts and mobsters, hairdressers and freestyle skiers, the notable deaths of 2012 is a compilation of the celebrities and newsmakers who have passed away in the last year. With the average life span reaching 78.5 years, according to the CDC from 2010 to 2011, the age-adjusted death rate declined significantly for 5 of the 15 leading causes of death, while the leading causes of death of ranked the top five as diseases of heart, malignant neoplasms, chronic lower respiratory diseases, cerebrovascular diseases and accidental and unintentional injuries.

Below is a list of the just some of the notable deaths of 2012, indicated by name, date of birth, death, age and cause of death.

Sarah Burke (September 3, 1982 – January 19, 2012) age 29 (cause of death: accidental death): Since she was a teenager Sarah Burke would find herself sneaking onto the snowboard half-pipe. Skiing was her passion and as her career progressed, she soon became known as the pioneer for superpipe events. In 2001, she won first place in the US Freeskiing Open. She was a four-time Winter X Games gold medalist and the first woman ever to land a jump with 1080 degree rotation in competition. However, on January 10, 2012, Burke sustained serious injuries while training on the Park City Mountain Resort Eagle superpipe in Park City, Utah. While she had completed her trick, she had landed on her head, and though she did not appear to be in severe pain, moments later she went into cardiac arrest

After being resuscitated and airlifted to the University of Utah Hospital, it was reported she had been placed in an induced coma. The following day, she underwent neurosurgery to repair a tear in a vertebral artery, however, Burke’s injuries had been irreversible and due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest, she died from her injuries on January 19, 2012.

While her organs and tissues were donated as per a prior request, because she was Canadian participating in an unsanctioned event hosted by her sponsor, Burke was not covered under the insurance policy and was billed $200,000 in medical costs. To help pay for the medical bills, a website was constructed seeking donations, with future donations used to establish a foundation to honour Burke’s legacy.

Etta James (January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012) age 73 (cause of death: complications due to leukaemia): The matriarch of Blues and the pioneer of Soul and R&B, Etta James defined the sound with her powerfully defiant, abrasive and versatile vocal style; a style which went on to inspire the likes of Janis Joplin. With a career spanning nearly six decades, she was the winner of six Grammy’s and 17 Blues music awards, and known for her debut album and title track single At Last!.

After years of hospitalizations, James died of complications due to leukaemia. Her funeral was attended by hundreds of friends, family and famous celebrities, including Christina Aguilera, who performed a rendition of James’ At Last!, Stevie Wonder, who performed Shelter in the Rain, and Rev. Al Sharpton, who eulogized James, quoting President Barack Obama, “Etta will be remembered for her legendary voice and her contributions to our nation’s musical heritage.”

Don Cornelius (September 27, 1936 – February 1, 2012) age 75 (cause of death: self-inflicted gunshot wound): From 1971 to 1993, Don Cornelius was known not just as a television show host, but as the creator of the nationally syndicated dance/music franchise Soul Train. Though he began his career as a journalist inspired by the civil rights movement, Cornelius saw value in the 1960s television venue a place for soul music and soon introduced many African-American musicians to a larger audience, which further offered musicians like James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson wider exposure.

However, after his death on February 1, 2012, Cornelius was honoured in a nearly three hour ceremony inside the Hall of Liberty auditorium in Forest Lawn, Hollywood cemetery. As if transported to the golden years of Soul Train, Cornelius’ funeral ceremony was filled with music from the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight & Pips and many others. While the ceremony was visited by the likes of Earvin Magic Johnson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, it was poignant message of his 14-year-old granddaughter who moved the room as she spoke about her “smooth-voiced, loving grandpa.”

Whitney Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012) age 48 (cause of death: accidental drowning): Known as the Queen of Pop or simply The Voice, Whitney Houston’s career blossomed from just being a gospel choir singer at age 11 to being the most awarded female act of all time, as well as the world’s best-selling musical artist. However, Houston’s personal life soon became turbulent with drug and alcohol abuse, infidelities and scandal. After a brief hiatus, Houston re-emerged with a platinum album in 2009 along with a film comeback in the works.

While her career had begun to take off again, Whitney was soon pronounced dead on February 11, 2012 of an accidental drowning caused by a combination of drugs. As news of the star’s death circulated, family, friends and fans fervently mourned her passing. Her nearly four-hour long invitation-only funeral was highly publicized, with celebrities from Kevin Costner, Alicia Keyes, Clive Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Sr., and others.

Davy Jones (December 30, 1945 – February 29, 2012) age 66 (cause of death: heart attack): Davy Jones captured the hearts of millions of teenaged girls with his long hair, boyish good looks, charming English accent and warm sense of humor. Even after the breakup of his band The Monkees, Jones continued to see success over the years, including a modest solo musical career, the authoring of several autobiographies and being ranked No. 2 as the 10 Best Teen Idols in 2009. However, it was on February 29, 2012 when reports announced that Jones had died of a heart attack at the age of 66.

Jim Marshall (July 29, 1923 – April 5, 2012) age 88 (cause of death: cancer): He’s the Father of Loud… nay… the Lord of Loud and alongside the likes of Leo Fender, Les Paul and Seth Lover, Jim Marshall is one of the four forefathers of rock music equipment. His company Marshall Amplification grew to iconic status as the biggest names in rock turned to using his equipment.

On April 5, 2012, Marshall died while staying at a hospice at the age of 88. His equipment has been used by musicians like Ritchie Blackmore, Big Jim Sullivan, Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.

Mike Wallace (May 9, 1918 – April 7, 2012) age 93 (cause of death: unspecified): For more than 50 years, Mike Wallace was one of television’s most admired journalists known as a reporter with the presence of a performer. He garnered a reputation as an interrogator of the famous and infamous on 60 Minutes going head-to-head with chiefs of state, celebrities and con artists, asking tough questions with a no nonsense approach. However, in 2006, he stepped away from his full-time role on 60 Minutes, though he did make several appearances until his death on April 7, 2012.

The news of his death left many of his friends, fans and colleagues saddened by the loss, but his death was honored with a CBS special program dedicated to his memory. Meanwhile Mitt Romney, Donald Trump and journalism luminaries such as Roger Ailes and Carl Bernstein all attended the ceremony, sharing stories memorializing the sting, bite and edge of the man himself.

Dick Clark (November 30, 1929 – April 18, 2012) age 82 (cause of death: heart attack): He was America’s oldest teenager and he spent over half a century bringing the rebellious new music scene to the forefront and combined it with traditional show business. Dick Clark began his career in the early 50s but as the end of the decade came to an end, he saw even more success after ABC network execs decided to offer him a full time hosting position on The Bandstand. It wasn’t long before Clark became synonymous for blazing a new trail for pop music. On April 18, 2012, Clark died of a heart attack at the age of 82.

Levon Helm (May 26, 1940 – April 19, 2012) age 71 (cause of death: throat cancer): With his deeply soulful, country-accented voice and an impressive multi-instrumental skill, Levon Helm was well known for his creative drumming style showcased on many of The Band’s recordings. A drummer and frequent lead and backing vocalist for The Band, Helm maintained a steady career as both a musician and actor, staring films such as 1980′s Coal Miner’s Daughter as well as having a cameo in the 2008 Mark Wahlberg film, Shooter.

However, in 1998, Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer. While undergoing treatment had allowed his cancer to go into remission, he soon began making a comeback album, which earned him a Grammy Award in 2008 for Best Traditional Folk Album. By 2012, speculation arose concerning Helm’s health after he had previously cancelled several performances due to poor health or a slipped disk in his back. By April 17, 2012, Helm’s wife and daughter soon revealed that he had end-stage cancer before passing away on April 19.

Adam Yauch (August 5, 1964 – May 4, 2012) age 47 (cause of death: parotid gland and lymph node cancer): A songwriter, film director and human rights activist, Adam Yauch found his fame as a founding member of the hip hop group Beastie Boys. After over three decades of influential work, Yauch was diagnosed and treated for a cancerous parotid gland and lymph node in 2009, however after a three year battle with salivary gland cancer, Yauch died at age 47.

George Lindsey (December 17, 1928 – May 6, 2012) age 83 (cause of death: unspecified illness): Perhaps best known for his role as Goober Pyle on the Andy Griffith Show, George Lindsey had an extensive acting career starring in shows such as M*A*S*H, The Real McCoys, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Wonderful World of Disney, CHIPS, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Twilight Zone and Love American Style. Though he was one of the busiest performers in the business, with frequent guest appearances on talk and game shows, Lindsey always found time to become a fixture at numerous charity fundraisers. However, after suffering from a brief illness, he passed away in Nashville Tennessee.

His public memorial service drew an estimated 400 people, with Lindsey’s close friend, actor Ernest Borgnine sending a video tribute to be played at an informal gathering prior to the memorial. To further personalize his ceremony, clips of Lindsey performing on Hee-Haw were shown in the church’s hall along with a framed tribute to him, placed in the Congressional Record in 2001 and the cover of a Capitol Records album titled “Goober Sings!”

Maurice Sendak (June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012) age 83 (cause of death: complications of a stroke): “There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen,” or so says Maurice Sendak in his popular book Where the Wild Things Are. Since 1947, Sendak was the author and illustrator to numerous children books – a decision inspired after watching Walt Disney’s film Fantasia at the age of twelve. On May 8, 2012, Sendak died from complications of a stroke leaving many of his contemporaries and fellow colleagues in literature to remark upon the heavy influence he had upon the 20th centuries children literature.

Vidal Sassoon (January 17, 1928 – May 9, 2012) age 84 (cause of death: leukaemia): A rockstar, an artist, and a craftsman who changed the world with a pair of scissors has been one way of describing the British hairdresser who has been credited with creating a simple geometric, Bauhaus-inspired hair style known as the wedge bob.

Since 1954, Sassoon had been recognized as the man who not only revolutionized the art of hairstyling but further presented women with his wash and wear philosophy to liberate them from the tyranny of the salon. However, after being diagnosed with leukaemia in June 2011 and receiving treatment in both the US and the UK, Sassoon died on May 9, 2012 in his home in Bel Air, Los Angeles.

Donna Summer (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012) age 63 (cause of death: lung cancer): She gained prominence during the disco era of the late 70s. She was known as a five-time Grammy Award winner and was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the United States Billboard charter, which further spawned four number one singles within a 13-month period. After being diagnosed with lung cancer, Summer died on May 17, 2012.

Robin Gibb (December 22, 1949 – May 20, 2012) age 62 (cause of death: liver and kidney failure due to colorectal cancer): Singer, songwriter and co-founder of the Bee Gees, Robin Gibb has been described as one of the major figures in the history of british music with one of the best white soul voices ever, according to music historian Paul Gambaccini.

Since 1958, Gibbs, along with his twin brother Maurice and older brother Barry embarked on a six decade career, which would see Gibbs inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, given an honorary doctorate of music and further received a Steiger Award for accomplishments in the arts.

While he maintained steady performances for many years, in 2010 he began suffering abdominal pains and by November 2011 was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, which had metastasized to his liver. However, in April 2012, Gibbs contracted pneumonia and fell into a coma. While he eventually came out of the coma, his colorectal cancer had advanced and he died on May 20, 2012 of liver and kidney failure.

Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) age 91 (cause of death: unspecified illness): With his imaginative and evocative tales, Ray Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20th Century American writers whose work has been adapted into numerous shows and films. As the author of the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes, Bradbury went on to influence the likes of Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Joss Whedon.

However, after a lengthy illness, the writer who as the New York Times stated was “most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into literary mainstream” died on June 5, 2012.

Henry Hill (June 11, 1943 – June 12, 2012) age 69 (cause of death: complications due to heart problems): Iconically portrayed by Ray Liotta in the 1990 film adaption Goodfellas, Henry Hill was famed New York City mobster turned FBI informant who testified against Lucchese captain Paul Vario and James Burke, and further led to upwards of 50 convictions of the Lucchese crime family members.

After entering the witness protection program, Hill and his family changed their names and moved to undisclosed locations throughout the US. However, after years of numerous crimes while in the witness protection, Hill was expelled from the program in the early 90s. After years of arrests for narcotics possession and having entered rehab, Hill opened a restaurant known as Wiseguys in West Haven, Connecticut.

One day after his 69th birthday, Hill died of complications from longtime heart problems related to smoking. As his partner of 14 years, Lisa Caserta said: “He had been sick for a long time… he went out pretty peacefully, for a goodfella.”

Rodney King (April 2, 1965 – June 17, 2012) age 47 (cause of death: accidental drowning): His name is well known and his story has been one passed around for years. Rodney King made headlines in 1991 after being beaten with excessive force by Los Angeles police officers following a high-speed car chase. With the incident videotaped, public outrage exploded and issues toward police brutality, racism and other social inequalities became topics of heated debate. On April 29, 1992, a jury found three of the four police officers acquitted of all charges – a verdict which has been considered to have triggered the 1992 Los Angeles riots, where 53 people were killed and over two thousand injured.

King successfully sued the city of Los Angeles in a federal civil rights case, however he continued to have run-ins with the law over his consistent abuse of alcohol. By 2008, King had checked into the Pasadena Recovery Center to treat his alcoholism, however on June 17, 2012, King was found dead in the bottom of his swimming pool from an accidental drowning caused by alcohol, cocaine and marijuana found in his blood.

Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) age 71 (cause of death: leukaemia): She redefined romantic comedies and was nominated three times for an Academy Award for Best Writing. She was a journalist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, producer, director and blogger. With movies such as Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, Ephron made a name for herself in Hollywood and was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award in 1994.

After complications resulting from acute myeloid leukaemia, Ephron died from pneumonia on June 26, 2012. Her death resulted in an outpour of reaction from many celebrities such as Meryl Streep, Matthew Broderick, Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks and many others who commented on her brilliance, warmth and wit.

Andy Griffith (June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012) age 86 (cause of death: heart attack): Grammy Award-winning Southern-gospel singer, writer, actor and television producer Andy Griffith began his career as a monologist but soon found himself starring in films. While he was no stranger to television, with his first starring role being in ’55 in the one-hour teleplay No Time for Sergeants, Griffith appeared as a county sheriff in an episode of Make Room for Daddy. The episode served as a backdoor pilot for The Andy Griffith Show.

After leaving the show in 1968 to pursue his film career and other projects, Griffith soon returned back to television with the legal drama Matlock, which he would star in until the show’s final season in 1995.

On July 3, 2012, Griffith died from a heart attack at his home and was buried in the Griffith Family Cemetery within five hours of his death.

Sally Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012) age 61 (cause of death: pancreatic cancer): American physicist and Astronaut, Sally Ride became known as the first American woman to enter into low Earth orbit in 1983 as well as the youngest American astronaut to be launched into space. After more than 343 hours in space, Ride authored a report entitled NASA Leadership and America’s Future in Space and further founded NASA’s Office of Exploration.

While she left her position in 1987 to work at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control, she soon moved into the role of professor of physics at the University of California, where she would soon become Director of the California Space Institute. From the mid-90s to her death on July 23, 2012, Ride worked with NASA on a number of projects, which would allow middle school students to study imagery of the Earth and Moon.

Seventeen months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Ride died on July 23, 2012.

Tony Sly (November 4, 1970 – July 31, 2012) age 41 (cause of death: unspecified): For some, his name may not have been as memorable as Elvis Presley or Whitney Houston, but for others – those who grew up listening to the explosive sounds of 90s punk rock, the name Tony Sly would probably conjure up songs such as Soulmate, Why Doesn’t Anybody Like Me? or Dumb Remainders.

As the frontman for the punk band No Use For A Name ( NUFAN), Tony Sly has been cited as an influential songwriter by many prominent punk musicians, including NOFX frontman Fat Mike. While the band achieved minor mainstream success, over the years Sly began focusing on his solo career as well as working fellow punk musician Joey Cape of Lagwagon on two acoustic albums.

News of his death was first announced through Fat Wreck Chords on August 1, 2012 with a statement being released on August 7 that he had died peacefully in his sleep.

Gore Vidal (October 3,1925 – July 31, 2012) age 86 (cause of death: complications of pneumonia): Outspoken, controversial and acerbic, Vidal has gone down in history as one of the major writers of the modern era. Well known for his novel The City and the Pillar which outraged conservative critics in 1948.Vidal’s lengthy career saw numerous publicized spats with such figures as Norman Mailer, William Buckley and Truman Capote, as well as his own dissemination of his political views and social philosophies. However, on July 31, 2012, Vidal died of complications of pneumonia at the age of 86, leaving behind a legacy which would see him held in high regard as one of the most praised American literary writers.

Tony Scott (June 21, 1944 – August 19, 2012) age 68 (cause of death: suicide): He was the younger brother of Ridley Scott and the director of such films as Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Days of Thunder, The Last Boy Scout and Crimson Tide. He was considered one of Hollywood’s A-list action directors and further helped influence the careers of such actors as Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Eddie Murphy, Denzel Washington and many others.

While he had numerous projects currently in the works, Tony Scott took his life on August 19, 2012 when he jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in the San Pedro port district of Los Angeles and despite early claims of serious underlying medical conditions, Scott was not suffering from cancer.

Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) age 82 (cause of death: complications due to cardiovascular blockage): He took one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind, but for the man who would forever be chronicled in history as the first man to ever step on the moon, he was often referred to as a reluctant American hero. Since that day in July 1969 when he first landed on the moon, Armstrong settled into a life that remained private, while supporting local businesses and charities. He never embraced the celebratory fame as others had, but rather remained humble about his participations.

On August 7, 2012, Armstrong underwent bypass surgery to relieve blocked coronary arteries, however as a result from the cardiovascular procedure, Armstrong passed away on August 25 at the age of 82.

Larry Hagman (September 21, 1931 – November 23, 2012) age 81 (cause of death: throat cancer): The man everyone loved to hate, J.R. Ewing of the American primetime television soap opera Dallas became one of television’s most memorable characters. He was egocentric, manipulative and covetous, and the audience revelled in viewing him. But it was Larry Hagman who gave the character his truest life. After working for the Antelope Tool Company, Hagman had watched as the eldest son, Jess Hall Jr., won an a succession battle over the company. It was this moment which left a lasting impression upon Hagman, who would later take what he’d seen and channel it through his character. After more than 50 years in the film industry, Hagman died on November 23, 2012 due to complications of throat cancer.

Ravi Shankar (April 7, 1920 – December 11, 2012) age 92 (cause of death: upper respiratory and heart issues): Most known for his association with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and lead guitarist of The Beatles, George Harrison, Ravi Shankar built a career as a composer performing the sitar. It was in the mid-50s when Shankar began touring Europe and America, performing Indian classical music. By the 1980s, Shankar had amassed immense popularity for not just his performances of Indian classical music, but also for how he engaged Western music by writing concerti for sitar and orchestra. With a career spanning from 1939, Shankar continued to perform internationally until December 6, 2012, when he was admitted to a hospital for respiratory difficulties.

On December 11, 2012, Shankar passed away suffering from upper-respiratory and heart issues over the past year. His final performance was on November 4, 2012, when he performed with his daughter Anoushka in Long Beach, California.




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