Gone Too Soon

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    2020 took a lot from all of us, everone around the world. Iin America, Black people were harder hit than most, with far disproportionate case and death rates from COVID. We also lost some people whose work we have admired and been inspired by. Today, we pay tribute to some of those we lost in 2020.

Day 18 - R is for Rest in Peace

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    Kobe Bryant. January 26. The world mourned along with L.A. Lakers fans when Kobe and his daugher passed. A basketball legend, he was 41. Drafted into the NBA at just 18, he went on to become a five-time NBA champion during his 20 years as a player, placing him among the all time greats.

     

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    Ja'Net DuBois. February 17. Good Times star DuBois most famously portrayed the sexy and sassy Willona Woods, the loyal best friend of Florida Evans, and the best dressed Black woman on TV. She also sang and co-wrote the best Tv theme song of all time, The Jeffersons “Movin’ On Up.”  She won two Emmy Awards during her career, both for her voiceover work on The PJ’s.

     

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    Bill Withers, March 30. Withers was the soul singer and songwriter behind the everlasting hits "Lean on Me," "Ain't No Sunshine," "Lovely Day," and "Use Me." “A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other," said his family after his passing. He was 81.

     

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    Andre Harrell, May 8. Harrell was a veteran music executive known for founding hip-hop label Uptown Records, and a longtime associate of Sean "Diddy" Combs. Harrell was a popular and influential figure in the music industry, helping shepherd such artists as Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, Heavy D and the Boys, and The Notorious B.I.G. to success. Questlove: "He gave you the best soundtrack of your life man and you didn't even know it." Harrell was 59.

     

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    Little Richard, May 9. Little Richard, one of the foremost originators of rock and roll, died May 9 at age 87. Little Richard's ecstatic, flamboyant performance style single-handedly paved the way for generations of popular music entertainers, from the Beatles to  Elton John to Prince. With his trailblazing run of singles in the mid-'50s, which included hits like “Long Tall Sally,” “Tutti Frutti,” “Slippin & Slidin,” and “Jenny, Jenny,” Little Richard helped establish the very core of rock and roll’s original American songbook, providing the genre with several of its first-ever bona fide standards.

     

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    Betty Wright, May 10. The opening notes of Wright's "Clean Up Woman" are among the most recognizable in all of RnB. A Miami native, she began singing at age 2 when she performed with her siblings as part of the gospel group Echoes of Joy. The Grammy Award winner not only wrote hits for herself, like "Tonight is the Night," but others including Gloria Estefan, Joss Stone, and Jennifer Lopez.

     

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    Bonnie Pointer, June 8. Oakland native Bonnie Pointer became a star as part of Grammy-winning group the Pointer Sisters, with hits like "Yes We Can Can" and "How Long." They sang in crisp, close harmonies and dabbled in scat vocals, and they wore 1940s fashions with a sense of thrift-store chic. She went solo in the late 70s. “I’m the kind of person who likes to do adventurous, new things,” She was 69.

     

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    Raymond Allen, August 10. If you ever watched Sanford and Son, you'll recognize Allen as, Uncle Woody, the beleaguered husband of Aunt Esther, Fred Sanford's favorite verbal sparring partner. Allen delivered his share of laughs in his appearances on the show and wouldn't mind if you had one for the road in his honor.

     

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    Chadwick Boseman, August 28. Boseman's death was a shock. Most did not know his battle with cancer, as he continued working right up until the end, delivering his final bravura performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Aside from his work in Black Panther, Boseman was memorable in every role, as James Brown in Get On Up, Thurgood Marshall in Marshall, as Jackie Robinson in 42. From every account, he was also a gallant human being. Wakanda Forever.

     

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    Cliff Robinson, August 29. Clifford Robinson, an 18-year veteran of the NBA died of complications from lymphoma. He was 53. Robinson spent eight seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, helping the team reach the finals in 1990 and 1992,

     

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    Johnny Nash, October 6. Johnny Nash, the singer and songwriter was best known for his 1972 hit "I Can See Clearly Now," Nash began his pop music career in the 1950s and made his major-label debut with the 1957 single "A Teenager Sings the Blues." His other notable songs included "Hold Me Tight," "You Got Soul," and "Rock Me, Baby." He was 80.

     

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    MF Doom, October 31. Daniel Dumile was the name of the legendary and enigmatic rapper known as MF Doom. Dumile performed with a metal mask modeled after the Marvel comic book villain Doctor Doom, and was rarely seen in public without it after debuting the Doom persona with the 1999 album Operation: Doomsday. He was 49.

     

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    Natalie Desselle-Reid, December 7. Actress Natalie Desselle-Reid was mainstay in Black entertainment. She appeared in everything from Set It Off to the sitcom Eve to Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family. In addition to being a part of the groundbreaking, colorblind cast in Cinderella starring Brandy, her role in B.A.P.S is widely considered one of the earliest instances of a plus-size female lead in a comedy with a significant romantic storyline. She was 53.

     

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    Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, December 10. Tommy "Tiny" Lister is best known for playing the neighborhood bully Deebo in the Friday movies. He played the President in The Fifth Element. Ice Cube remembered his Friday and Next Friday costar as “America’s favorite bully” and "a good dude at heart." Lister’s other TV and film credits include The Players ClubPosseThe Dark KnightLittle Nicky, and Jackie Brown. He was 62.

     

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    Charley Pride, December 12., Pride was a trailblazing performer considered country music's first Black superstar. Known for his rich baritone voice, Pride was one of the most successful country musicians of all time, and the first Black artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was 86.

     

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    Joe Clark, December 29. Clark was the New Jersey principal who Morgan Freeman portrayed in the film Lean on Me, loosely based on Clark's real-life experience as an inner-city principal whose students were challenged every day to become better versions of themselves through their commitment to education. He was 82.

A Tragic Fact