by BEN DOUTHETT
Almost halfway through 2016, the year is starting to get some awful shades of 2009.
Seven years ago, the world was left aghast as multiple celebrities shuffled off this mortal coil, many within only a few days of each other. Within just one three-day span (June 25-28), Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and infomercial host Billy Mays all shuffled off this mortal coil. Throughout the rest of the year, the world said goodbye to Be Arthur, Karl Malden, Dom DeLuise, David Carradine, and Patrick Swayze… and those are just some of the actors. From outside Hollywood, we can add newsman Walter Cronkite, author John Updike, and Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary.
But according to some outlets, ’16 is on pace to surpass ’09 and become the worst year for celebrity passings on record.
As early as February, Newsweek was already talking about the “Great Celebrity Death Epidemic of 2016”. This they did in a story published just after the passing of Maurice White. In addition to the Earth, Wind & Fire musician, the Grim Reaper had already claimed David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey of The Eagles, Abe Vigoda, and Irish TV host Terry Wogan. In April, the Daily Express made the bold claim that “many are beginning to ask whether 2016 is the worst year ever for celebrity deaths.”
In May, James O’Malley of Gizmodo UK examined the raw statistics (defining who counts as a “celebrity” by the number of inbound links that lead to the individual’s Wikipedia page). He concluded that “though more people had died by this point in 2015, overall, 2016’s deaths have received a higher score…. Which perhaps explains why the notable losses this year have felt so much more dramatic.” In essence, more famous people aren’t dying, it just feels that way because the ones that are dying are much more famous than in previous years.
It’s indeed a sad list, one that includes Prince, Doris Roberts of Everybody Loves Raymond fame, boxer Muhammad Ali, hockey player Gordie Howe, and even singer Christina Grimmie (shot to death after a concert by someone believed to have been an obsessed fan).
O’Malley concludes with, “there really are more famous people dying this year. And not just any famous people: really famous people…. Let’s just hope the rest of this year doesn’t continue like it began.”