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R.I.P. 2017: Famous Lives & Deaths We'll Remember

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By: ssegal

Published: 8 months ago

2017 may not have felt like the constant barrage of surprising notable deaths we endured in 2016, but that doesn't mean we haven't lost many beloved stars this year. We were left mourning America's sweetheart when Mary Tyler Moore died in January, and one of the top teen idols of the 1970s, David Cassidy, took his final bow just last month. In between, we said goodbye to some of the architects of rock & roll, influential comedians, bestselling novelists, and more. Join us as we take a look back at the most notable deaths of 2017.

MUSIC

Musicians occupied the headlines in large numbers this year, including the tragic, too-young death of Chris Cornell, lead singer of iconic rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave. His suicide was followed closely by that of his close friend Chester Bennington, front man for the influential rap-rock group Linkin Park.

Tom Petty was one of the top-selling recording artists of all time, thanks to easygoing singles like "Free Fallin'" and "You Don't Know How It Feels." Glen Campbell married country and pop music in a decades-long career spanning more than 60 albums. Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks were founders of the Allman Brothers Band, carrying on the group's country-rock legacy long after the death of Allman's brother Duane; both men died in 2017, just a few months apart. Al Jarreau brought jazzy cool to the airwaves; Troy Gentry formed half of the award-winning country duo Montgomery Gentry; and Prodigy was half of the East Coast hip-hop duo Mobb Deep.

No matter where their careers began or what type of popular music they played, they could all look back at Chuck Berry and Fats Domino as vital forerunners. The two, who also died this year, were among the pioneering musicians who, in the 1950s, combined a musical melange of influences to create the culture-changing force that was rock & roll.

FILM & TV

Spanning the acting and music worlds was teen idol Cassidy, who got his start on the groovy 1970s musical sitcom "The Partridge Family" and turned his T fame into a massive pop career that kept him swarmed with fans and admirers. Mary Tyler Moore was no less beloved as she debuted as a charming homemaker on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and grew into a feminist icon as a single career girl on her self-titled sitcom. 

Bill Paxton made us jump in thrillers like "Aliens" and "Twister" and laugh in comedies like "Weird Science." Martin Landau was one of classic Hollywood's great character acotrs, while Sam Shepard wore many hats, from playwright to director to actor. Roger Moore was suave as the legendary James Bond; Adam West was campy as the equally iconic Batman. Joseph Wapner really was a judge -- and he played one on TV, too, as the original face of the long-running courtroom reality show, "The People's Court."

Barbara Hale was a favorite for years on "Perry Mason," and Erin Moran had similar longevity on "Happy Days." Robert Guillaume of "Benson" turned sitcom fame into voice-acting triumph when he played Rafiki in "The Lion King," while June Foray boasted a long resume as the voice performer behind numerous beloved cartoon characters, from Rocky the Flying Squirrel to Jokey Smurf. Della Reese tugged at our heartstrings in "Touched by an Angel," while George Romero provoked a much different emotion -- primal fear -- with his hugely influential zombie films.

And while British actor John Hurt didn't always get to play the heroic leading-man role, his long body of intense work -- from "The Elephant Man" to "I, Claudius" to "Alien" to "Nineteen Eighty-Four" -- left some calling him the greatest actor in the world.

COMEDY

They made us laugh during their lives, but emotions ran to sadness when some of the most legendary comedians of the 20th century died in 2017. Don Rickles's insult comedy might have stung all those years if we weren't so busy laughing at his spot-on takes. Dick Gregory was the first black comedian to find widespread fame with white and black audiences alike, and he parlayed his fame into a lifelong commitment to activism in support of peace and civil rights. And Jerry Lewis was a rubber-faced, pratfalling legend, as beloved for his support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association as for his stand-up routines and wacky films including the original "The Nutty Professor."

PUBLISHING

Iconic mogul Hugh Hefner turned his men's magazine, Playboy, into a massive media empire. Liz Smith was "The Grand Dame of Dish" with her decades-spanning gossip columns in some of America's leading newspapers and magazines, while Nat Hentoff wrote some of the finest music journalism in the world for fifty years straight at The Village Voice before seguing to the Wall Street Journal. William Peter Blatty terrified us with his bestselling novel "The Exorcist," and Robert James Waller took us on a romantic journey to the heartland in "The Bridges of Madison County."

SPORTS

Roy Halladay was a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, making history as one of the very few pitchers to throw a no-hitter in the postseason. Professional wrestling lost two colorful characters in George "The Animal" Steele and Bobby "The Brain" Hennan -- and the boxing world lost Jake LaMotta, the middleweight inspiration for the classic film "Raging Bull."

Discover more life stories of 2017 here.