Not for nothing was Celia Cruz known as the Queen of Salsa. We remember Cruz’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Not for nothing was Celia Cruz known as the Queen of Salsa. Singing with Tito Puente’s orchestra and on her own, she achieved 23 gold records during a 40-year career and was awarded three Grammys and three Latin Grammys. During the 1960s and ’70s, she became identified with salsa music and was known for her powerful voice and unforgettable wardrobe. She gained new fans when she appeared in the 1992 film “The Mambo Kings,” and she continued performing almost until her death in 2003. We remember Cruz’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2020: Tony Taylor, second baseman who was an All-Star for the Philadelphia Phillies, dies at 84.
2017: George Romero, filmmaker known for the cult classic horror movie “Night of the Living Dead,” dies at 77.
2016: Nate Thurmond, U.S. NBA Hall of Fame center best known for his playing days with the Golden State Warriors, dies at 74.
2014: Johnny Winter, U.S. blues guitarist and singer who played at Woodstock, dies at 70.
Winter was a leading light among the white blues guitar players, including Eric Clapton and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, who followed in the footsteps of the earlier Chicago blues masters. Winter idolized Muddy Waters – and got a chance to produce some of the blues legend’s more popular albums. Rolling Stone magazine named Winter one of the top-100 guitarists of all time. Read more
2014: Karl Albrecht, German businessman who co-founded the Aldi supermarket chain, dies at 94.
Albrecht and his brother Theo, who died in 2010, both worked in their parents’ grocery store as they were growing up. After both serving as German soldiers in World War II, the two took over the business and began a rapid expansion. By early 1960, they were operating some 300 stores. After splitting the company into two, the brothers in 1962 rebranded the group Aldi – a contraction of “Albrecht Discount” – with Karl Albrecht leading Aldi South, and Theo Albrecht taking Aldi North. They still worked together, using their combined bargaining power to negotiate lower purchasing prices. Read more
2013: T-Model Ford, U.S. blues musician who recorded with Fat Possum Records and opened on tour for Buddy Guy, dies of respiratory failure at about 89.
Johnson says the family told her Ford was born in 1924 and had already had his birthday this year, which would’ve made him 89. But a blues expert and longtime friend, Roger Stolle (STOW-lee), says Ford didn’t remember what year he was born and claimed to be 93. Bill Luckett, co-owner of Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi, says Ford was “a master of old-school blues” with an international following. Read more
2012: Kitty Wells, U.S. country music star whose numerous hit songs included “Heartbreak USA,” dies of stroke complications at 92.
Wells’ success changed her life – and it also opened the door for other female country musicians. Before Wells, record labels were reluctant to release anything by a woman, but she showed them that a woman’s records could sell. Others soon followed in her footsteps, and as the ’60s went by, those other female country artists began to eclipse Wells’ fame, bringing new country sounds to a new generation. Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and many more stepped through the door that Wells opened, enjoying the fame she made possible. Read more
2012: Jon Lord, English keyboard player and composer who was a founding member of the band Deep Purple, dies of a pulmonary embolism at 71.
Lord got his musical start playing piano, first taking classical music lessons before shifting to rock ‘n’ roll, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. After moving to London to attend drama school, he joined blues band the Artwoods in 1964 and later toured with the Flowerpot Men – known for their hit “Let’s Go to San Francisco-” – before joining Deep Purple in 1968. Deep Purple went on to sell more than 100 million albums before splitting in 1976. Read more
Session musicians don’t have a loyalty to a single artist – they play where they’re needed, adding music behind a soloist’s voice or bolstering the sound of an established band. They rarely become superstars, but their work is heard every day in the music of the great names we do know. Smokey Robinson? Bob Babbitt played bass for him. Marvin Gaye? Yes, him too. Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Spinners, and even Jimi Hendrix? Yes, yes, and yes. Read more
2012: William Asher, U.S. television director and producer known best for producing and directing the sitcom “Bewitched” and who also directed many episodes of “I Love Lucy” and 1960s beach party movies including “Beach Blanket Bingo,” dies of complications of Alzheimer’s disease at 90.
Asher was known best for his work on “I Love Lucy,” where he directed Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz for 100 of the show’s 181 episodes between 1952 and 1957, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. He also produced and directed “The Patty Duke Show” and “Bewitched,” which starred his then-wife Elizabeth Montgomery. Montgomery and Asher had three children together. Read more
The craggy-faced actor also played the father on the Don Johnson TV show “Nash Bridges.” In addition to dozens of TV and movie appearances, Gammon was a noted stage actor who co-founded the MET Theatre in Los Angeles, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Gammon starred in several Sam Shepard plays, receiving a Tony nomination for his work on a 1996 Broadway production of “Buried Child.” Read more
2008: Jo Stafford, honey-voiced U.S. traditional pop singer and actress whose 1952 song “You Belong to Me” topped the charts in the U.S. and England, dies of congestive heart failure at 90.
Stafford had 26 charted singles and nearly a dozen top-10 hits, her son said, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. She won a Grammy for her humor. Stafford’s versions of “I’ll Walk Alone,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “I Don’t Want To Walk Without You,” and other sentimental songs struck the hearts of servicemen far from home in both World War II and the Korean War. They awarded her the title of GI Jo. Read more
2003: Celia Cruz, Cuban salsa singer who had 23 gold albums and was known internationally as the Queen of Salsa, dies of brain cancer at 77.
Growing up in Cuba in the 1930s, Cruz was urged in very different directions by her various family members. Her father wanted to see her finish her education and become a teacher. Her aunt, meanwhile, knew musical talent when she heard it and encouraged her niece to pursue a singing career. When one of Cruz’s teachers noted that she could make a lot more money with her voice than as a teacher, her career path was clear. Read more
From his first days of life, John F. Kennedy Jr. was one of the most looked-at – and photographed – people in the world. Born just 16 days after his father, John F. Kennedy, was elected to the White House, JFK Jr. was a source of fascination to the media and the public. Read more
1999: Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, U.S. publicist who was the wife of John F. Kennedy Jr., dies in a plane crash at 33.
1996: John Panozzo, U.S. musician who was a founding member and drummer of the rock band Styx, dies of a gastrointestinal bleed at 47.
1995: Patsy Ruth Miller, U.S. actress and writer known best for playing Esmeralda in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” opposite Lon Chaney, dies at 91.
1981: Harry Chapin, U.S. singer-songwriter known for his No. 1 hit song “Cat’s in the Cradle,” dies of cardiac arrest in a car accident at 38.
Chapin was a storyteller. He tugged at our heartstrings with his musical tales of ordinary lives – a too-busy dad who raises a too-busy son (“Cat’s in the Cradle”), a taxi driver who has a chance meeting with an ex-girlfriend (“Taxi”), a disc jockey who throws himself into his work and loses his family (“W*O*L*D”). Read more
1882: Mary Todd Lincoln, U.S. first lady of the United States from 1861 until 1865, dies at 63.