Mary Wells helped define the sound of Motown in the early 1960s and then took that sound to the U.K. We remember Wells and other celebrities who died this day, July 26, in history.
2015: Ann Rule, U.S. author known for her true crime novels including “The Stranger Beside Me,” about the serial killer Ted Bundy, her former co-worker, dies at 83.
2013: J.J. Cale, U.S. singer-songwriter and guitarist who was an originator of the Tulsa Sound and had his songs covered by Eric Clapton (“After Midnight”), Lynyrd Skynyrd, and John Mayer, dies of heart failure at 74.
Born John Weldon Cale in Oklahoma City, he cut a wide path through 1970s rock ‘n’ roll, influencing some of the most famous musicians at the time with songs that were laid back and mellow, yet imbued with a driving groove. Neil Young, Mark Knopfler, and Bryan Ferry are among his many fans in the music world, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. A former member of the Grand Ole Opry touring company, Cale never rose to the level of success of his admirers, but his fingerprints could be heard all over the genre in the 1970s, and his music remains influential. Read more
2012: Mary Tamm, English actress known for her role as Romana on the TV series “Doctor Who,” dies of cancer at 62.
2012: Lupe Ontiveros, U.S. actress who starred in the film “Selena” and had a recurring role on “Desperate Housewives,” dies of liver cancer at 69.
Ontiveros played Yolanda Saldivar in “Selena.” Her other credits include “As Good as It Gets,” “Real Women Have Curves,” “The Goonies,” and “Chuck & Buck.” The actress, born Guadalupe Moreno in Texas, once estimated she had played a maid more than 300 times, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. Read more
2004: William A. Mitchell, U.S. food chemist who was the key inventor of Tang, Pop Rocks, and Cool Whip, dies of congestive heart failure at 92.
1995: Laurindo Almeida, Brazilian guitarist and composer who was a pioneer in the fusion of Latin music and jazz and was the first artist to receive Grammys for both classical and jazz performances, dies of acute leukemia at 77.
1993: Daniel Fuchs, U.S. screenwriter and author whose movies included “The Hard Way” and “Panic in the Streets,” dies at 84.
Wells helped define the sound of Motown in the early 1960s and then took that sound to the U.K., opening for the Beatles. Her powerful vocals propelled hits like “Two Lovers,” “You Beat Me to the Punch,” and her signature song “My Guy,” and helped to break down radio’s color barrier.
As a child, Wells contracted spinal meningitis, leading to partial blindness and deafness in one ear. Music offered her an escape from her physical pain as well as a path to a successful career as a singer-songwriter. Her voice was silenced by laryngeal cancer, but not before she was able to testify before the U.S. Congress on the importance of funding cancer research. Read more
1990: Brent Mydland, U.S. keyboard player known best as a member of the Grateful Dead from 1979 until 1990, dies at 37.
1984: George Gallup, U.S. advertising researcher who pioneered survey sampling techniques with the Gallup Poll, dies of a heart attack at 82.
1982: Betty Walker, U.S. comedian known mostly in the 1950s and ’60s, who appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “The Merv Griffin Show,” dies at 53.
1971: Diane Arbus, U.S. photographer known for her black-and-white photographs of unusual people, dies by suicide at 48.
Arbus was known for photographing the things we don’t always see—or, maybe more precisely, the things we don’t always want to see. Her gritty black-and-white portraits seemed to capture every flaw, the obvious ones and the ones we thought we were cleverly hiding. She gravitated toward the unusual: nudists, eccentrics, and “freaks.” But even her simplest portraits of perfectly average people reveal something slightly off-putting, a little bit odd. Read more
1952: Eva Peron, second wife of Argentine President Juan Peron, who served as the first lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death, dies of cancer at 33.
1925: William Jennings Bryan, lawyer and politician who opposed attorney Clarence Darrow in the famous Scopes trial, dies at 65.