An Observer Tribute to the Creative Talent We Lost in 2020

An Observer Tribute to the Creative Talent We Lost in 2020

L to R, from top: Helen Reddy, Chadwick Boseman, Terrence McNally, Irrfan Khan, Naya Rivera, Kenny Rogers, Kobe Bryant, Margaret Nolan, John Baldessari, Diana Rigg. Collage by Eric Vilas-Boas for Observer; portraits via Getty Images

2020 has been a year of incalculable loss, which makes lists like this one especially difficult to write. No tally could ever adequately quantify the total human impact of a pandemic or its related blowback. Still, the end of the year is a time for reflection and appreciation. With the understanding that there are many more individuals who deserve recognition, here is a short list of creatives whose works have personally affected the Observer staff who we lost in 2020. For each, we have included a sample of their works and their impact as we knew them and loved them. We pay tribute to their lives and thank them for having shared their creations with us.

Compiled by Erin Taylor, Helen Holmes, Eric Vilas-Boas and Brandon Katz.


Helen Reddy Denver Post via Getty Images

Helen Reddy

Singer, age 78 | October 25, 1941, Australia
Watch: Her 1973 live performance of “I Am Woman” at the 15th Annual Grammy Awards

Sean Connery

Actor, age 90 | August 25, 1930, Scotland
Watch: His 1986 performance in the film Higherlander

Chadwick Boseman Rich Fury/FilmMagic

Chadwick Boseman

Actor, age 43 | November 29, 1976, South Carolina 
Watch: His performance in the 2020 television show Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Diana Rigg

Actress, age 82 | July 20, 1938, England
Watch: Her performance in the television series Game of Thrones

Charley Pride

Singer, Guitarist, & Basketball player, age 86 | March 18, 1934, Mississippi 
Watch: His live 1975 performance of “All I Have To Offer You Is Me”

Alex Trebek

Television Show Host, age 80 | July 22, 1940, Canada
Watch: A touching moment in 2019 on his show Jeopardy

John Le Carré

Author & spy, age 91 | October 19, 1931, England
Watch: In conversation with Mark Phillips for CBS Sunday Morning in 2019

Wilford Brimley 

Actor, age 85 | September 27, 1934, Utah
Watch: His performance in the 1981 film Absence of Malice

Dame Olivia de Havilland

Actress, age 104 | July 1, 1916, Japan
Watch: Her Academy Class of 1978 interview

Alan Parker

Director, age 76 | February 14, 1944, England
Watch: His 1996 film Evita and read his own words about the making of the film

Regis Philbin

Television Show Host, age 88 | August 25, 1931, New York
Watch: Philbin in his own words

Naya Rivera Amanda Edwards/WireImage

Naya Rivera

Actress, age 33 | January 12, 1987, California
Watch: Her performance of Valerie on the show Glee

Ennio Morricone 

Composer, age 91 | November 10, 1928, Italy
Watch: His song The Ecstasy of Gold composed for The Good, The Bag, and The Ugly

Carl Reiner 

Actor, Comedian, Screenwriter, & Director, age 98 | March 20, 1922, New York
Watch: Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks’ ‘2000 Year Old Man’ on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1961

Fred Willard

Actor, Comedian, & Writer, age 86 | September 18, 1933, Ohio
Watch: His performance in the 1984 film This is Spinal Tap

Grant Imahara 

Television Show Host, Electrical Engineer, & Roboticist, age 49 | October 23, 1970, California
Watch: Remembering Grant Imahara from Discovery

Kelly Preston

Actress, age 57 | October 13, 1962, Hawaii
Watch: This 1989 scene from The Experts where she dances with then future husband John Travolta

Malik B. 

Rapper & Singer, age 47 | November 14, 1972, Pennsylvania 
Watch: This music video for Clones by The Roots

Bruce Williamson Jr. 

Singer, age 49 | September 29, 1970, California
Watch: His 2019 performance of My Girl with Lon Bronson

Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

Eddie Van Halen

Musician & Songwriter, age 65 | January 26, 1955, Netherlands 
Watch: His guitar solo Eruption live in 1986

Margaret Nolan

Actress, age 76 | October 29 1943, England
Watch: Her performance in the 1968 comedy series Nearest & Dearest

Anthony Chisholm

Actor, age 77 | April 9, 1943, Cleveland, Ohio
Watch: His role in OZ

Nick Cordero

Actor & Singer, age 41 | September 17 ,1978, Canada
Watch: His performance of “What a Wonderful World” at Feinstein’s/54 Below

Joel Schumacher

Filmmaker, age 80 | August 29, 1939, New York
Watch: “Your eyes, your lips, your body…” –Batman Forever

Ian Holm

Actor, age 88 | September 12, 1931, England
Watch: “Goodbye, Dear Bilbo” –The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Jerry Stiller

Actor, age 92 | June 8, 1927, New York
Watch: Stiller with his wife Anne Meara on The Ed Sullivan Show

Lynn Shelton

Filmmaker, age 54 | August 27, 1965, Ohio
Watch: “A Celebration of Lynn Shelton Through Film and Music”

Sam Lloyd

Actor, age 56November 12, 1963, Vermont
Watch: Lloyd’s guest appearance on The West Wing

Little Richard

Musician, age 87 | December 5, 1932, Georgia
Watch: His 1957 live performance of “Lucille”

Irrfan Khan

Actor, age 53 | January 7, 1967, India
Watch: His performances in The Namesake and The Killer

Brian Dennehy

Actor, age 91 | July 9, 1938, Connecticut
Watch: His performance in To Catch a Killer

Honor Blackman

Actress, age 94 | August 22, 1925, England
Watch: Her performance as Hera in Jason and the Argonauts

Lee Fierro

Actress, age 91 | February 13, 1929, Ohio
Watch: Her iconic scene from Jaws

Kenny Rogers

Musician, age 81 | August 21, 1938, Texas
Watch: His duet of “Islands in the Stream” with Dolly Parton

Terrence McNally

Playwright & Screenwriter, age 81 | November 3, 1938, Florida
Watch: This performance of his song “Love and Love Alone” from The Visit

Max von Sydow

Actor, age 90 | April 10, 1929, Sweden
Watch: His character Antonious meets Death for a chess match in The Seventh Seal

Kobe Bryant Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant

Athlete, age 41 | August 23, 1978, Pennsylvania
Watch: His animated film, Dear Basketball

Kirk Douglas

Actor, age 103 | December 9, 1916, New York
Watch: His performance in Ace in the Hole

Terry Jones

Actor, age 77 | February 1, 1942, Wales
Watch: His performances in Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Elizabeth Wurtzel Catherine McGann/Getty Images

Elizabeth Wurtzel

Author, age 52 | July 31, 1967, New York
Read: “Bastard” at The Cut: “Every woman has a clock implanted in her brain. An alarm clock with Mickey Mouse bells. Every woman keeps track of her age, because we are temporarily credentialed with youth and beauty. We watch it all go by.”

Nikita Pearl Waligwa

Actress, age 15 | Uganda
Read: David Oyelowo’s appreciation of her life and work: “She was a ball of light.”

Adam Schlesinger

Songwriter & Multi-instrumentalist, age 52 | October 31, 1967, New York
Watch: His performance of “What’ll It Be”

John Prine Tom Hill/WireImage

John Prine

Singer-songwriter, age 73 | October 10, 1946, Illinois
Watch: Prine performing “Summer’s End”

Harold Budd

Composer, age 84 | May 24, 1936, California
Watch: His composition “The White Arcades”

Miguel Algarín

Poet, age 79 | September 11, 1941, Puerto Rico
Watch: The poet reading his work

John Baldessari

Conceptual artist, age 88 | June 17, 1931, California
Watch: He discusses “Recycling Images”

Jason Polan

Illustrator, age 37 | July 17, 1982, Michigan
Watch: An interview on “Every Person in New York”

Helène Aylon

Multimedia artist, age 89 | February 4, 1931, New York
Watch: Her “midwifes”

Beverly Pepper

Sculptor, age 97 | December 20, 1922, New York
Watch: A video on her cast iron work for the Nor’easter Conference

Addy Borneman, aka GayVapeShark

Memer, age 35 | Indiana
View: Selections from her Instagram here and here.

An Observer Tribute to the Creative Talent We Lost in 2020