Freddie Mercury created himself out of thin air. We remember his remarkable life as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Freddie Mercury created himself out of thin air. Born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, and raised in India until a teenager, Mercury turned himself into one of the greatest writers and performers in the history of popular music. His four-octave range was legendary, and he used it to power through blockbuster hits like “Another One Bites the Dust,” “We Are the Champions,” and the irresistible anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Mercury died in 1991 of complications from AIDS, cutting short the life and career of a man who transformed music in his lifetime. His band, Queen, continues to sell albums thanks in large part to Mercury’s enduring popularity. About 50 percent of their 34 million records were sold after Mercury’s death. We remember Mercury’s life as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2016: Florence Henderson, U.S. actress known to millions as Carol Brady from TV’s “The Brady Bunch,” dies at 82.
The actress’ best-known role was Carol Brady, the patient, loving mother on “The Brady Bunch.” The sitcom, which ran from 1969 to 1974 and in reruns ever since, followed the adventures of a large blended family brought together by the marriage of Mike and Carol Brady. Read more
2012: Hector Camacho, Puerto Rican champion professional boxer, dies of gunshot injuries at 50.
Originally from Bayamon, just outside San Juan, Camacho was long regarded as a flashy if volatile talent, a skilled boxer who was perhaps overshadowed by his longtime foil, Mexican superstar Julio Cesar Chavez, who would beat him in a long-awaited showdown in Las Vegas in 1992, according to Camacho’s obituary by The Associated Press. Read more
2009: Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Wizards in the NBA as well as other sports teams, dies of a rare brain disease at 85.
The Wizards play in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood that was torched during the 1968 riots. Now it’s an area known for shops, restaurants, shows, and sports. There’s a street called “Abe Pollin Way” and a state-of-the-art arena known as the Verizon Center, all legacies of the man who risked his fortune on a project that would revitalize a troubled part of town, according to Pollin’s obituary by The Associated Press. Read more
2005: Pat Morita, U.S. actor from California whose credits include the television sitcom “Happy Days” and “The Karate Kid” motion picture and its sequels, dies of kidney failure at 73.
Morita’s defining role came when he was 52 years old. That’s when he won the role of Mr. Miyagi, a semi-reclusive, wise Okinawan karate master who helps New Jersey transplant teen Daniel-san confront California bullies by teaching him self-defense through a grueling regimen of household chores. Producer Jerry Weintraub originally wanted a Japanese rather than Japanese-American actor for the role, and some might be surprised to learn Morita struggled to produce an authentic-sounding Japanese accent. The producer also insisted that the actor be billed as the more authentically ethnic sounding Noriyuki “Pat” Morita. Read more
2004: Arthur Hailey, British-born author whose novels include “Hotel,” “Airport,” and “Wheels,” dies at 84.
2003: Warren Spahn, U.S. Major League Baseball pitcher for the Boston Braves, the New York Mets, and the San Francisco Giants, dies of natural causes at 82.
Crusty as ever, Spahn had one complaint when his bronze statue was unveiled outside Turner Field a few months before his death. “That nose is a little too big,” baseball’s winningest left-handed pitcher said, his face breaking into that familiar smirk. Read more
2001: Melanie Thornton, U.S. pop singer from South Carolina who became popular in Germany and fronted the European dance group La Bouche, dies at 34 in a plane crash in Switzerland.
1995: Jeffrey Lynn, U.S. actor from Massachusetts whose film credits include “Daughters Courageous,” “Tony Rome,” and “BUtterfield 8,” dies of natural causes at 86.
1993: Albert Collins, U.S. blues guitarist from Texas aka the Master of the Telecaster, dies at 61.
1991: Freddie Mercury, Tanzanian-born British singer and lead vocalist for the rock group Queen, dies of AIDS complications at 45.
As a singer, Mercury was bombastic, with a four-octave range that swept from a low growl to soaring heights. As a songwriter, he was boundlessly creative, trying a little something new every time and offering intricate arrangements. And as a performer, he was darn near godlike, packing stadiums and delighting audiences with his theatrical antics and fantastic music. Read more
1991: Eric Carr, drummer for the rock band Kiss from 1980 until his death, dies of heart cancer at 41.
1985: Big Joe Turner, influential U.S. blues singer-shouter from Kansas City, Missouri, who originally recorded the classic song “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” dies of heart failure at 74.
1980: Herbert Agar, U.S. journalist and historian who won the Pulitzer Prize for history for “The People’s Choice,” dies at 83.
1980: George Raft, U.S. actor from New York whose film credits include the original “Scarface,” “Each Dawn I Die,” and “Some Like It Hot,” dies of leukemia at 79.
1963: Lee Harvey Oswald, the sniper whom the Warren Commission fingered as the sole assassin of President John F. Kennedy, is shot dead at 24 by Dallas nightclub operator Jack Ruby.
1962: James J. Kilroy, U.S. ship inspector who originated the phrase “Kilroy was here” that accompanied his cartoonish drawing of a bald man with a big nose peering over a wall, dies at 60.
1961: Ruth Chatterton, U.S. actress from New York whose film credits include “Female” and “Dodsworth,” dies of a cerebral bleed at 68.
1957: Diego Rivera, prominent Mexican painter whose works include the murals “Man at the Crossroads” and “Pan-American Unity,” and husband of painter Frida Kahlo, dies at 70.
1948: Anna Jarvis, U.S. social activist who was the founder of Mother’s Day, dies at 84.