Some significant departures this year:
1. Robert Altman
A tragic loss to film: an innovative director with an inspirational body of work. My favourite is Gosford Park (so lush!), followed by The Player, but special mention to significant others such as MASH, Nashville, and Prairie Home Companion.
2. Betty Friedan - very influential US feminist
3. Coretta Scott King – civil rights activist in her own right, and widow of Martin Luther King.
4. Ahmet Ertegün - US executive (Turkish origins) of Atlantic records. greatly influential in popular music from the 1950s onwards, his name is ubiquitous. Signed Ray Charles, Led Zeppelin and others, and put the Young into Crosby, Stills and Nash.
5. Ali Farka Touré – Mali guitarist. A sublime blend of US blues and authentic African traditions.
6. Grant McLennan – Australian musician/songwriter/singer. Although he’s well known as a leading light of the Go Betweens, his best work was with Snow Job, the second album from Jack Frost, a collaboration with Church stalwart Steve Kilbey. My comments here.
7. Harry Seidler – Australian architect, responsible for some hideous travesties such as Blues Point Tower and Australia Square (some 'experts' actually like it!), but a significant modernist force.
8. Steve Irwin – for his conservation work, and the money he directed to that cause. Not for his tv personality, which belies the sophistication that is Australia.
9. Augusto Pinochet – Mass murdering Chilean dictator. Should have died rotting in jail, but was still being chased by the justice system. Wrote a letter for posthumous release that sought exculpation, but strangely neglected to mention the deaths, disappearances, tortures and child stealings that he was responsible for.
10. PW Botha – penultimate white South African Prime Minister, unreconstructed racist, responsible for repression and death.
11. Saddam Hussein [update 30-December] - the butcher of Baghdad was executed. He deserved to rot in jail. But it would have exacerbated regional tensions, unless incarcerated in an absolutely neutral - and stable - country. There's no true justification for capital punishment.
Others of note:
Music: Syd Barrett, Wilson Pickett (his Hey Jude brought Duane Allman to Derek and the Dominoes, although Allman’s work on Boz Scaggs’ Loan Me A Dime was more significant), Lou Rawls (the sultry You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine), Gene Pitney, Elisabeth Swartzkopf (opera) , James Brown, Sam Neely
Literature: Stanislaw Lem (science fiction writer), Mickey Spillane (detective Hammett)
Politics: Alfred Stroessner (the villain of Paraguay) , Lloyd Bentsen, Gerald Ford, Caspar Weinburger, John Profumo
Film: Glen Ford, Jack Wild
TV: Joseph Barbera (Hanna Barbera cartoons), Aaron Spelling, Don Knotts (‘Barney’s in jail, Barney’s in jail’), Maureen Stapleton (more than All In The Family)
Australian: Peter Brock
A league of his own: Ivor Cutler