Author Kurt Vonnegut took the counterculture by storm with his earliest novels, publishing science fiction that was much more than robots and spaceships. We remember Vonnegut’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Author Kurt Vonnegut took the counterculture by storm with his earliest novels, publishing science fiction that was much more than robots and spaceships. His sci-fi shone a light on society’s problems as he saw them, using parody to show how ridiculous we can be. Vonnegut’s writing wasn’t all sci-fi, but it was all darkly funny, and he is remembered for his classic novels including “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “The Sirens of Titan,” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.” We remember Vonnegut’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2016: Ed Snider, U.S. the founder of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, dies at 83.
2014: Jesse Winchester, U.S. singer-songwriter whose songs include “Yankee Lady” and “Say What,” dies at 69.
Winchester was a protégé of the Band’s Robbie Robertson, who produced and played guitar on Winchester’s self-titled debut album and brought Band mate Levon Helm along to play drums and mandolin. Winchester’s second album, 1972’s “Third Down, 110 To Go,” featured tracks produced by Todd Rundgren. He continued to release material at a steady clip until 1981’s “Talk Memphis,” after which he took a seven-year break from recording. That album, however, contained Winchester’s biggest U.S. hit, “Say What.” Read more
2013: Jonathan Winters, U.S. comedian and actor who appeared in many movies and television series including “Mork & Mindy” and “The Garry Moore Show,” dies at 87.
Generations of audiences have enjoyed the quirky characters brought to life by Winters, who began in the early 1950s and was still going strong at the time of his death; he had just completed work on “Smurfs 2” as the voice of Papa Smurf. Over the course of a long and rich career, Winters did a little bit of everything. Read more
2013: Maria Tallchief, U.S. ballerina who was considered America’s first prima ballerina and the first Native American to hold the rank, dies at 88.
Tallchief danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1942 to 1947, but her career was most associated with the New York City Ballet, where she worked from 1948 to 1965. George Balanchine, the Russian-born dance genius, was not only the company’s director; in 1946, he also became Tallchief’s husband for some years. Read more
2013: Grady Hatton, U.S. professional baseball player and manager who managed the Houston Astros in the 1960s, dies at 90.
Hatton hit .254 with 91 home runs and 533 RBIs in 1,312 major league games in 12 seasons from 1946 to 1960 with the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, and Chicago Cubs. He had a 164-221 record as Houston’s manager from 1966-68. Read more
2013: Don Blackman, U.S. pianist and singer-songwriter who played with Parliament/Funkadelic; Earth, Wind and Fire; and Roy Ayers, dies at 59.
2011: Larry Sweeney, U.S. professional wrestler who appeared mostly on the American independent circuit, dies at 30.
2007: Kurt Vonnegut, U.S. author well-known for his novel “Slaughterhouse-Five,” dies at 84.
“He was sort of like nobody else,” said fellow author Gore Vidal. “Kurt was never dull.” A self-described religious skeptic and freethinking humanist, Vonnegut used protagonists such as Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater as transparent vehicles for his points of view. He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against institutions that he believed were dehumanizing people. Read more
2007: Roscoe Lee Browne, U.S. actor known for his recurring role as Professor Foster on “The Cosby Show,” dies at 81.
On TV, he had several memorable guest roles. He was a snobbish black lawyer trapped in an elevator with bigot Archie Bunker in an episode of the 1970s TV comedy “All in the Family” and the butler Saunders on the comedy “Soap.” He won an Emmy in 1986 for a guest role as Professor Foster on “The Cosby Show.” In 1992, Browne returned to Broadway in “Two Trains Running,” one of August Wilson’s acclaimed series of plays on the black experience. It won the Tony for best play and brought Browne a Tony nomination for best featured (supporting) actor. Read more
2006: June Pointer, U.S. R&B singer who was a member of the Pointer Sisters and sang the lead on the hit song “He’s So Shy,” dies at 52.
Pointer was a member of a very special group of musicians: women who made their mark on the music world alongside their sisters. She was still a teen when she formed the Pointers-A Pair with her sister Bonnie. Sister Anita soon joined them and they became the Pointer Sisters, joined by sister Ruth in 1972. Read more
2006: Proof, U.S. rapper who was a childhood friend of Eminem and was known for being a member of the group D12, dies at 32.
1996: Jessica Dubroff, U.S. child pilot who was attempting to become the youngest person to fly an airplane across the country with her flight instructor and her father, dies at age 7 when the plane crashes.
1992: James E. Brown, U.S. actor known best for his role as Lieutenant Ripley “Rip” Masters in “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” dies at 72.
1991: Walker Cooper, U.S. Major League Baseball catcher who was an eight-time All-Star and won two World Series championships, dies at 76.
1987: Primo Levi, Italian chemist and writer whose best-known works include “If This Is a Man” and “The Periodic Table,” dies at 67.
1987: Erskine Caldwell, U.S. author known best for his novel “Tobacco Road,” dies at 83.
1983: Dolores del Rio, Mexican actress who enjoyed great success in Hollywood in the 1920s and ’30s, including the movie “Bird of Paradise,” dies at 77.
1970: John O’Hara, U.S. author and screenwriter whose best-known works are “BUtterfield 8” and “Pal Joey,” dies at 65.
1970: Cathy O’Donnell, U.S. actress known for her many film-noir movie roles, dies at 46.
1962: George Poage, U.S. athlete who was the first African-American to win a medal at the Olympic Games when he won two bronze medals at the 1904 games in St. Louis, dies at 81.
1953: Kid Nichols, U.S. Hall of Fame baseball pitcher who won 361 games in his career, which is to this day the seventh best win total in baseball history, dies at 83.
1906: James Bailey, U.S. businessman and entertainer who formed the Barnum and Bailey Circus with P.T. Barnum, dies at 53.
1890: Joseph Merrick, English man who had severe deformities and was exhibited as a human curiosity known as the Elephant Man, dies at 27.