This past year, these actors, musicians, and other notables departed from this earth. NewsOne remembers those we lost in 2012 here.
Jimmy Castor: Pop and funkmeister bar none, Jimmy Castor was a saxophonist who could also sing. As the leader of the famed ’70s funk group, The Jimmy Castor Bunch,” he released several successful albums but two singles will forever live in funk infamy, “The Bertha Butt Boogie” and “Troglodyte (Cave Man).” Many of Castor’s songs have been sampled by some of music’s top performers and used as theme songs in films. Castor passed away from heart failure at age 71 on January 16th.
Etta James: Etta James’ whose voice spanned nearly all musical genres — jazz, R&B, rock & roll, country, blues, and gospel — for six decades and influenced everyone from Janice Joplin to Christina Aguilera to Beyonce. Known as “Miss Peaches,” James was a doo-wop singer in the fifties, and in the sixties, went out on her own to revel in such successes as “At Last (1961).” Throughout her musical career, James battled heroin, won six Grammys, and was voted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Beyonce portrayed James in the 2008 film “Cadillac Records,” and after Beyonce sang “At Last” at one of President Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural balls, James lashed out, “I can’t stand Beyonce. She had no business up there singing my song that I’ve been singing forever.” She later told the New York Daily News she was joking. After being morbidly obese (weighing more than 400 pounds and getting gastric bypass in 2003), using a scooter to get around due to her bad knees, and having dementia and hepatitis C, James finally succumbed to leukemia on January 20 at age 73.
Watch Etta James sing “At Last” here:
Don Cornelius: Television show host, producer, and the genius who gave this world an all-Black dance/music show, “Soul Train,” Don Cornelius was someone whom many stood in awe of. He skillfully constructed a Black urban music time capsule in a television venue that was devoid of such diversity and the result was phenomenal. As the writer, producer, and host of the nationally syndicated show “Soul Train,” which aired from 1971 to 2006, Cornelius offered even wider exposure to Black musical talent and to dancers as well. The man who was known for sporting sharp suits and for his resonating voice also struck cultural gold with another groundbreaking effort, the “Soul Train Music Awards,” which began in 1987. Cornelius died at his own hands from a gunshot wound on February 1 at age 75, but he left his indelible mark of “love, peace, and soul.”
Watch Cornelius dance on the “Soul Train” line here:
Whitney Houston: The iconic song bird with the voice of an angel, Whitney Houston took singing to another level. Houston’s talents were honored with six Grammy Awards and 26 nominations. The world-class superstar always, despite her tough battles with drugs, remained a child of the church throughout her life. Houston created pop culture moments with her numerous recordings, film projects, and live performances. The undisputed trailblazer for other female artists, Houston passed away on February 11 at age 48, when she was found dead in a bathtub at the Beverly Hills Hotel. A toxicology report later confirmed that her cause of death was due to the effects of chronic cocaine use and heart disease.
Watch Houston sing “I Will Always Love You” here:
Chuck Brown: The “Godfather of go-go,” Chuck Brown had a gift: he could “wind up” funk fans everywhere with his music. Go-go is non-stop percussive bass music, a blended genre of funk, jazz, and soul founded by Brown some 40 years ago in his beloved hometown of Washington, D.C. Whenever Brown would give a concert, fans would eagerly wait for his famous call and response with them. Brown, along with his group The Soul Searchers, had a ’70s monster party jam, “Bustin’ Loose,” which was his biggest hit of all time and is a timeless song that has been sampled by countless artists. The music that was created by the gravel-voiced man, who always wore an all-too-familiar brim and glasses on stage, will live on for generations to come. Brown passed away on May 16 at age 75.
Watch Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” here:
Donna Summer: The “Queen of Disco” Donna Summer had a rich melodious voice and this gift is what made her gain prominence during the disco era of the late 1970s. The five-time Grammy Award winner was the first artist to have three-consecutive double albums reach No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard chart, and she also charted four No. 1 singles in the United States within a 13-month period. Chart toppers, such as “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff,” and “Love to Love You, Baby,” kept us on the dance floors even though we were ready to pass out. Summer passed away on May 17, after battling lung cancer.
Watch Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money” here:
Michael Clarke Duncan: Oftentimes referred to as a “gentle giant,” Michael Clarke Duncan was a towering and hulky actor who gave unforgettable and poignant performances on screen. Who could ever forget his Academy Award-nominated role in the memorable 1999 film “The Green Mile”? The celebrity body guard-turned-actor also lent his deep resonating voice to a number of children’s films as well, such as “Brother Bear, ” “Brother Bear 2,” and “Kung Fu Panda.” When Duncan was rushed to a L.A. hospital in July after suffering a heart attack, prayers went soaring to the Man upstairs from all walks of life for Duncan who was well-respected and loved. When the “gentle giant” took his last breath on September 3 at age 54, those who were rooting for him were stunned and saddened beyond belief.
Watch Duncan in “The Green Mile” here:
Sherman Helmsley: That “Mr. Jefferson” sure could shake his groove thang! Sherman Helmsley was an actor whose ’70s television role on the iconic show “The Jefferson’s” will forever be remembered. Even though Helmsley appeared on Broadway, in films, and starred on other TV shows like the mid-’80s to early nineties comedy “Amen,” he will always be known as that cantankerous “Mr. Jefferson.” On July 24th, when Helmsley passed away from lung cancer at age 74, he was not buried until November due to lots of red tape over his will, which was contested by a brother. In the end, his business partner was named the sole executor of his estate and it was then that Mr. Jefferson was allowed to move on up and go to that “deluxe apartment in the sky.”
Watch Helmsley on “The Jeffersons” here:
Emanuel Steward: Truly revered as a standout boxing trainer and whose Kronk Gym was the symbol of Detroit’s gritty boxing scene, Emanuel Steward produced top-shelf performers in the ring, such as former multi-divisional world champion Thomas “Hit Man’ Hearns, heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis, and reigning heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. During his illustrious decades-long career, the “Godfather of Detroit boxing” trained over two dozen champions. He knew his game and was brilliant at it. As a corner man, he found the right words that would motivate his fighters to strategize their win. Steward was also an HBO boxing analyst since 2001 and a fixture at most of HBO’s biggest fights. Unfortunately, Steward lost his biggest battle when he passed away at age 68 on October 25 of colon cancer.
Watch Steward doing what he loves here:
Major Harris: Very few could deliver slow “baby making music” like Major Harris. Before he stepped out in to the limelight on his own, the R&B singer was associated with the hot sound of Philadelphia soul in the ’60s. In the early ’70s, Harris joined The Delfonics, one of the groups who were responsible for heating up those blue-light basement, slow-grind music parties of the ’70s. The artist then went solo in 1974 and scored a song that will forever be remembered for contributing to the population increase of these United States: “Love Won’t Let Me Wait.” Harris died of lung failure and congestive heart failure on November 9th at age 65.
Watch Harris’ “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” here: