Died Today in History ›
Getty Images / Redferns / Photo by Ron Howard
Published: 11 months ago
Marc Bolan was the charismatic frontman for the '70s glam rock pioneers T. Rex. A singer-songwriter, poet, and guitarist, Bolan initially envisioned his band as Tyrannosaurus Rex, an acoustic outfit with lots of appeal to the hippies of the late '60s. As he began experimenting with electric guitar, the glam sound was born and the band's name shortened. Their hit songs included "Children of the Revolution," "Metal Guru," and "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," which was covered by the Power Station in 1985. Bolan was just 29 in 1977, and he had recently formed a new band and recorded a TV variety series when he died in a car crash. We remember Bolan's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2016: Edward Albee, U.S. acclaimed playwright who wrote “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, dies at 88.
Albee was one of the most acclaimed and influential American playwrights of the 20th century. He won the Tony Award for best play for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1963) and “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” (2002). He was a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner for drama, for “A Delicate Balance” (1967), “Seascape” (1975), and “Three Tall Women” (1994). “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was denied a Pulitzer for its vulgarity, and no award was given that year. Read more
2016: W.P. Kinsella, Canadian author whose novel "Shoeless Joe" was adapted into the movie "Field of Dreams, dies at 81.
2013: Jimmy Ponder, U.S. jazz guitarist who played with Donald Byrd and Stanley Turrentine, dies at 67.
2013: Kim Hamilton, U.S. actress who was one of the first African-American actors to appear on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives," dies at 81.
2013: Mac Curtis, U.S. rockabilly musician who was elected to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and charted with the song "The Sunshine Man," dies at 74.
2012: John Ingle, U.S. actor known best for his role as the ruthless Edward Quartermaine on the daytime soap opera "General Hospital," dies at 84.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, he had acting credits on TV shows including "Days of Our Lives," "Big Love," and "The Drew Carey Show," and in films such as "Batman and Robin" and "Heathers." Read more
2011: Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Grammy Award-winning U.S. blues vocalist, harmonica player, and drummer who was a member of Muddy Waters' band and won a Grammy for the album "Joined at the Hip," which he recorded with Pinetop Perkins, dies after a stroke at 75.
In a soft but strong voice, singer Mary Travers of the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary called for social change. The type of change could differ based on the audience, as she herself once noted in The New York Times about "Blowin' in the Wind," the Bob Dylan song her trio first made famous. Travers also sang the song at the 1963 March on Washington. Read more
2008: Norman Whitfield, U.S. producer and songwriter known best for his work with Motown Records and who wrote the hit songs "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," and "War," dies of diabetes-related heart and kidney failure at 68.
Many of his biggest hits were co-written with Barrett Strong, with whom he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004. The two won the Grammy in 1972 for best rhythm and blues song for the Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." Whitfield won another Grammy in 1976 for best original TV or motion picture score for "Car Wash." Whitfield also worked as a producer for the Temptations and others. Read more
In the 1950s, the novelty song went through a surge of popularity. Singing one of the greatest novelties of the decade was character actor and country singer Wooley, who gave the world the goofy tale of "The Purple People Eater." The 1958 comedy classic rose to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart – a seriously unlikely feat for a novelty song today – and even inspired a feature film and a nickname for the Minnesota Vikings' defensive line. Read more
2002: James Gregory, U.S. actor known best for playing General Ursus in "The Planet of the Apes" and for his regular role as Inspector Frank Luger on "Barney Miller," dies at 90.
2001: Samuel Z. Arkoff, U.S. movie producer who was a co-founder of American International Pictures, which was known for making B movies typically in the horror genre, such as "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," and beach party movies including "Beach Blanket Bingo," dies at 83.
1996: Gene Nelson, U.S. actor and director who starred in the movie version of the musical "Oklahoma!" and directed Elvis Presley in the movie "Kissin' Cousins," dies at 76.
1994: Jack Dodson, U.S. actor known best for his role as Howard Sprague on "The Andy Griffith Show" and as the father of Ralph Malph on the sitcom "Happy Days," dies of heart failure at 63.
1992: Millicent Fenwick, U.S. fashion editor who was an editor at Vogue and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey, dies of heart failure at 82.
1991: Carol White, English actress who starred in the movie "The Fixer" opposite Dirk Bogarde, dies at 48.
1977: Maria Callas, U.S. soprano vocalist who was one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century, dies of a heart attack at 53.
Callas was a diva in the classic sense of the word as well as in the sassier modern definition – she was a great operatic performer, and she was also glamorous and temperamental, bombastic and beautiful. She transformed her appearance dramatically midcareer, losing weight and becoming as visually striking as she was vocally gifted. Scandal followed her in her professional life, as she feuded with La Scala opera house, fought a lawsuit from a former agent, and gained a reputation as a tigress. Read more
1977: Marc Bolan, English singer-songwriter and guitarist known best as the founder and frontman for the 1970s glam rock band T. Rex, dies of injuries sustained in an auto accident at 29.
We can't say what trajectory Bolan's career would have taken had he lived to a riper old age. As it is, Bolan is one of those gone-too-soon icons such as Buddy Holly or Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain, whose music and images are canonized upon their early deaths. There's a lot of rocker cred in saying your music is influenced by T. Rex, as have greats from Blondie and Joan Jett to the Smashing Pumpkins, the Smiths, and Oasis. Or by name-checking Bolan's band in one of your songs. Read more
1965: Fred Quimby, U.S. cartoon producer known best as a producer of the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons, dies at 79.
1950: Pedro de Cordoba, U.S. film actor who was a popular leading man during the silent era and later a character actor in sound movies, dies at 68.