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Died May 16

Published: 5/16/2015
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Jim Henson (Everett Collection)

Jim Henson created worlds of wonder with his groundbreaking Muppets and creature designs. Using felt, ping-pong balls and other mundane materials, Henson constructed unforgettable characters such as Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. His Muppets were a part of the first season of Saturday Night Live and continue to make childhood magical for children all over the world on his hugely popular Sesame Street. Through the Jim Henson Co., he made a series of Muppet films and built creatures for movies like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. He died suddenly of a streptococcal infection, leaving behind decades of unfinished projects in addition to the legacy of wonder his career became. We remember Henson's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.

Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history.

2013: Bernard Waber, U.S. children's book author who wrote The House on East 88th Street and Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, dies at 91.

Bernard Waber (AP Photo/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)Waber debuted as an author in 1962 with The House on East 88th Street, which introduced readers to the loveable Lyle, first spotted in a bathtub in an Upper East Side brownstone. Lyle's story continued in Lyle Finds His Mother, Lyle and the Birthday Party and other works. Waber also wrote many non-Lyle books, such as Ira Sleeps Over, in which a boy fears he'll be teased for bringing a favorite stuffed teddy bear to a friend's house. Read more

 

 

2013: Dick Trickle, U.S. race car driver who was on the NASCAR circuit and was a successful short-track driver, dies at 71.

Dick Trickle (Associated Press)A short-track star from Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, Trickle was believed to have won up to 1,000 races while inspiring hundreds of racers throughout the Midwest. Among them was Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, a St. Louis native who toured the same Midwest circuit and raced Trickle down to the wire for the 1983 ASA championship. Read more

 

 

 

2012: Chuck Brown, U.S. guitarist and singer who was called the Godfather of Go-go Music and had a hit song in 1979 with "Busting Loose," dies at 75.

Chuck Brown (Associated Press/Chris Pizzello)Thanks to Brown and his deep, gravelly voice, go-go music was uniquely identified with Washington, D.C. That's where he continued to play the city's club circuit to a loyal audience late in life. At the time of Brown's death, Mayor Vincent Gray said the city would be a different place without him. "Go-go is D.C.'s very own unique contribution to the world of pop music," he said. "Today is a very sad day for music lovers the world over." Read more

 

 

2010: Hank Jones, U.S. jazz pianist who was honored with the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award and performed with Ella Fitzgerald and Charlie Parker, dies at 91.

Hank Jones (AP Photo)A tireless musician who performed his blend of swing and bebop until the end, Jones came from a family of jazz musicians who included brothers Thad, a trumpeter, composer and arranger, and Elvin, a drummer known for the polyrhythmic beat that propelled John Coltrane's classic quartet. Read more

 

 

 

2010: Ronnie James Dio, U.S. rock singer known best as the lead singer for the bands Rainbow, Dio and Black Sabbath, the latter following the departure of Ozzy Osbourne, dies at 67.

Ronnie James Dio (AP Photo)Dio rose to fame in 1975 as the first lead singer of Rainbow, the heavy metal band put together by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who had just quit Deep Purple. Dio then replaced legendary vocalist Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath in 1980 with the critically acclaimed album Heaven and Hell, considered by many critics to be one of the finest heavy metal albums of all time. His on-again, off-again tenure with Black Sabbath touched off an intense debate among fans as to which singer constituted the true essence of the band – a discussion that lasted until his death. Read more

 

2008: Robert Mondavi, U.S. winemaker who owned the internationally known Mondavi Winery in California, dies at 94.

Always convinced that California wines could compete with the European greats, Mondavi engaged in the first French-American wine venture when he formed a limited partnership with the legendary French vintner Baron Philippe de Rothschild to grow and make the ultrapremium Opus One at Oakville, California. The venture's first vintage, 1979, was released in 1984. Read more

 

 

2001: Brian Pendleton, English guitarist who was an original member of the popular 1960s British band the Pretty Things, dies at 57.

1993: Marv Johnson, U.S. singer-songwriter who was one of the first artists signed to Motown Records and had two Top 10 singles, dies at 54.

1990: Jim Henson, U.S. puppeteer, artist, actor and screenwriter who created the Muppets, dies at 53.

While still in high school, Henson began working for a local television station in Maryland, creating puppets for a Saturday morning children's show. During college he created a 5-minute puppet show called Sam and Friends for the local NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C. It was on this show that Kermit the Frog made his debut in 1955. Read more

 

 

1990: Sammy Davis Jr., U.S. singer, dancer and actor who was a member of the Rat Pack with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and had a hit song in 1972 with "The Candyman," dies at 64.

Davis was a performer all his life, beginning on vaudeville when he was just a 3-year-old. As he grew up and grew famous, he wowed us with his multifaceted talent: He could sing, dance, act and do spot-on impressions – all with ease. Read more

 

 

 

 

1985: Margaret Hamilton, U.S. character actress known best for playing the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, dies at 82.

1984: Irwin Shaw, U.S. author, screenwriter and playwright known best for his novels The Young Lions and Rich Man, Poor Man, dies at 71.

1984: Andy Kaufman, U.S. actor, comedian and performance artist known for his eccentric characters, such as Latka on the TV series Taxi, and his feud with the wrestler Jerry "The King" Lawler, dies of lung cancer at 35.

Entertainer Kaufman – he preferred not to be called a comedian – was a familiar face on TV: a regular on the sitcom Taxi who also appeared several times on Saturday Night Live. But his career was hardly in the mainstream. He told jokes without punch lines, performed acts without jokes, and elicited anger and boredom from audiences as often as laughter. He got onstage and read from The Great Gatsby; he launched a professional wrestling career; he took an entire audience out for milk and cookies. Read more

 

 

1957: Eliot Ness, U.S. government agent known best for creating the law enforcement group in Chicago known as the Untouchables, who took down gangster Al Capone, dies at 54.

1956: H.B. Reese, U.S. inventor who started the H.B. Reese Candy Co. and created the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, dies at 76.

1955: James Agee, U.S. author, journalist and screenwriter who was one of the most influential film critics in the 1940s, co-wrote the movie The African Queen and penned the novel A Death in the Family, dies at 45.

1953: Django Reinhardt, Belgian-born French jazz guitarist who was regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time, who performed with Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie, dies at 43.

Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history.

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