2020 was that year that claimed the lives of public figures across the globe with huge footprints on the sands of time. While this 15 deaths that shook the world is in no way exhaustive, the shock the world received from the demise of these stars (some of whom were quite young) still reverberates up till this day.
From Kobe Bryant to Naya Rivera, and then Chadwick Boseman, their legacies will not fade in a hurry.
Pioneering Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, an icon, legend and co-founder of afrobeat died in Paris on the last day of April, aged 79. Cause of death was a heart attack. Allen was the drummer and musical director of Fela Kuti’s famous band Africa ’70 in the 1960-70s. before his death, Allen played significantly on Angelique Kidjo’s Grammy winning 2019 album, Celia.
American actor Chadwick Boseman, best known for playing Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe of films died 29, August of colon cancer aged 43. He died at home in Los Angeles with his wife and family by his side, according to a statement posted on social media. Diagnoses with colon cancer four years ago, Boseman did not make the information public.
Basketball legend, global superstar and 18-time All-Star who won five NBA championships during a 20-year career with the Lakers, died in a helicopter crash in January. He was 41. The crash occurred in the foggy hills above Calabasas, California. Bryant was killed alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
John le Carré
Born David John Moore Cornwell but better known by his pen name, John le Carré was a British author of espionage novels, some of which were made into hit films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Tailor of Panama and The Constant Gardener. Carré, who raised the spy novel to a new level of seriousness and respect died 13, December aged 89 of pneumonia.
Sir Sean Connery, the Scottish actor best known for his portrayal of James Bond, having been the first to play the role on the big screen died in October at the age of 90. Connery died peacefully in his sleep in the Bahamas after a spell of illness. His acting career spanned seven decades and he won an Oscar in 1988 for his supporting role in The Untouchables.
Cameroonian musician and saxophonist, Manu Dibango, a pioneer of Afro-funk music died of COVID-19 in Paris in March. He was 86 years old. Internationally, Dibango was best known for his 1972 classic, Soul Makossa, a funk-drenched hit, lit by Dibango’s burning saxophone, that would go on to be sampled by everyone from Michael Jackson to Rihanna.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, aka the Notorious RBG, architect of the legal battle for women’s rights died Friday 18, September in her home in Washington, D.C. She was surrounded by family. The cause of death was complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas. She was 87. In her 80s, Ginsburg became a legal, cultural and feminist icon and was played by Felicity Jones in the film, On the Basis of Sex.
Johnson, a mathematician who calculated rocket trajectories and Earth orbits for NASA’s early space missions died of natural causes at a retirement community in Virginia. She was 101. Johnson was portrayed in the 2016 hit film Hidden Figures about pioneering black female aerospace workersby actress Taraji P. Henson. In 2015, President Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Bollywood star Irrfan Khan, known internationally for his roles in the Oscar winning films, Life Of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire, died in April at the age of 53. One of India’s best-known and beloved actors, Khan went public in 2018 with a diagnosis of a rare neuroendocrine tumor. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi called Khan’s demise “a loss to the world of cinema and theatre.” He is survived by a wife and two children.
John Robert Lewis, the son of sharecroppers who survived a brutal beating by police during a landmark 1965 march in Selma, Alabama- alongside Martin Luther King- and become a towering figure of the civil rights movement plus a longtime US congressman passed away in July after a six-month battle with cancer. He was 80.
Argentine football legend Diego Maradona died on Wednesday, 25, November at the age of 60 at his home on the outskirts of Buenos Aires following a heart attack. Maradona, considered the greatest player ever, had been serving as head coach for Argentine Primera Division side Gimnasia de la Plata. He was in poor health, having been hospitalized with a blood clot on the brain at the start of November.
Italian Ennio Morricone, the legendary composer and towering giant of film scores and cinema died 6, July in Rome at the age of 91. Morricone wrote music for more than 500 movies including the instantly recognizable one for the Sergio Leone spaghetti western, The Good, the bad and the Ugly. After six nominations, Morricone won a competitive Oscar for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight in 2016.
Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak was an Egyptian military and political leader who served as the fourth president of Egypt from 1981 to 2011 when he was ousted by the military. He died in Cairo at the age of 91. He was found guilty of complicity in the killing of protesters during the revolution.That conviction was overturned and Mubarak was freed in March 2017.
Country music crossover icon Kenny Rogers, known for recording enduring classics like The Gambler Lucille and Islands in the Stream (with Dolly Parton) passed away in his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia in March. He was 81. During his six-decade career, the husky-voiced Rogers sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, won three Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Decorated Iranian General, Qassem Soleimani, 62, leader of the foreign wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was killed in a U.S. airstrike authorized by Donald Trump at Baghdad’s international airport, escalating long-brewing animosities between Iran and the US. Before his death, Soleimani was described as second only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in power.
May their giant souls rest in peace. Amen
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.