Wow, has this been a devastating year or what? And not just for the British entertainment community, but globally. It’s been next to impossible to keep up with the growing list of those who have left us; some after long, full careers while others have suddenly passed when we assumed we had decades more to look forward to their contributions.
The losses have touched the fields of television, film, radio and the recording industry equally. As fans we have mourned deaths of people who made us laugh, cry, dance, sing and most importantly, think. We thank them for sharing their talents with the world and they will continue to live on in our memories through the work they left behind.
What follows is my personal list of a dozen British icons that died this year. Many you will recognize, but a few names may be unknown to you. The clips and images I have chosen are favorite characters, moments, songs or performances that are meaningful to me.
Comedian, writer and actress
Three-time BAFTA award winner, Aherne created and starred in the sitcom The Royle Family, the comedy chat show The Mrs. Merton Show and the sketch program, The Fast Show. Known for her unique voice, Caroline also narrated the reality TV series, Gogglebox.
Ms. Smith is noted for her eccentric characters in the period drama Lark Rise to Candleford and in sitcoms such as 2Point4 Children, The Vicar of Dibley and alongside Caroline Aherne as Norma “Nana” Speakman in The Royle Family. She also won a Best Supporting Actress BAFTA for her role as Maggie Smith’s mother in the film, A Private Function.
Best known for his role as R2-D2 in the classic sci-fi franchise Star Wars, Baker also appeared in such as fantasy films such as Time Bandits, Labyrinth and Willow.
Singer, songwriter, actor, painter
More than one particular song or album, Bowie is acclaimed as a trailblazer in musical trends, pop fashion and reinvention. From glam rock and plastic soul to Berlin electronic and his more pop-tinged New Romantic period, David could not be pinned down and was awarded a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2006. Bowie also acted in films such as The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Hunger and Labyrinth.
Comedian, actor, writer, presenter
Mr. Corbett came to fame as half of the double act, The Two Ronnies, with his comedy partner Ronnie Barker. Their long-running association included a BAFTA award winning television comedy variety program. Corbett also appeared in films such as No Sex Please: We’re British, and headlined several 70’s and 80’s sitcoms including No, That's Me Over Here!, Now Look Here, and Sorry!
Record producer, arranger, composer, conductor, audio engineer, and musician
Sometimes called the Fifth Beatle, Sir George Martin is best known for his work as the multi-Grammy award winning producer and frequent arranger for the Fab Four. He got his start as a successful comedy album producer for artists such as Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore and Spike Milligan. He produced recordings for a variety of other music artists including Kenny Rogers, Cheap Trick, Elton John, and Celine Dion.
As a member of the pop duo Wham! and later as a solo artist, Grammy winner Michael produced a string of memorable hits such as Careless Whisper, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Father Figure and Faith. He also collaborated on a number of hit duets with artists including Aretha Franklin, Elton John and Queen. George was famously willing to poke fun at himself when it benefited a worthy charity whilst inspring the first Carpool Karaoke.
Actor and director
With an Emmy and Golden Globe to his credit, Rickman was a versatile actor with a deliciously villainous flair. He was a scene stealer as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and the Sherriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. To a certain generation he will always be, first and foremost, potions master Severus Snape. Alan was adept at comedy in films such as Galaxy Quest, Bottle Shock and Love Actually. But it is perhaps his lovelorn roles in Truly Madly Deeply and Sense and Sensibility that made Rickmaniacs of many a viewer.
Best known for his role as the beloved bumbling Spanish waiter Manuel on Fawlty Towers , German-born Sachs also did a significant amount of work as a narrator and voice-over artist. He appeared in the long-running soap Coronation Street in the late 2000’s as well as the film Quartet about a retirement home for musicians and the comedy fantasy mini-series Going Postal.
A working character actor, Mr. Vaughn’s career spanned over six decades. He worked in film, television, radio and stage and across all genres. He appeared in comedies such as Porridge, An Ideal Husband and Death at a Funeral. He played Anthony Hopkins’ ailing father in The Remains of the Day and the Deputy Minister of Information in the sci-fi classic, Brazil. Peter’s last role was the blind scholar Maester Aemon in Game of Thrones.
Television and radio broadcaster
Though probably not a familiar name to most Americans, Sir Terry Wogan was a venerated household name in the UK. His television work included serving as the long-running host of the Eurovision Song Contest and presenter for the popular game show Blankety Blank. Wogan headed up an eponymous chat show for a decade and he was the face of the BBC charity telethon, Children in Need, for over thirty years. He also hosted radio programs intermittently over the past four decades.
Comedian, actress, singer-songwriter, screenwriter, director
A pioneer for British women in comedy, Wood earned BAFTAs for her accomplishments in light entertainment comedy as well as drama in her later career. She was a renaissance woman of sorts utilizing her musical and writing talents behind the scenes. She wrote and starred in a variety of projects from the hilarious workplace sitcom Dinnerladies to an acclaimed dramatic TV movie called Housewife, 49. In her most classic comedic work, Victoria often teamed with fellow actress and comedian, Julie Walters.
I urge you to share your memories of these and other performers who have passed away in 2016. Here’s hoping for a happier, healthier 2017!