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A look back at the biggest celebrity deaths of 2012

posted 13 Dec 2012, 10:52 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 13 Dec 2012, 10:57 ]

A look back at the celebrities that the entertainment world said goodbye to in 2012, including Whitney HoustonTony Scott and Robin Gibb.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIAUNITED STATES  (REUTERS) - 2012 was a year of surprising deaths and sad goodbyes in the entertainment world.Whitney Houston stunned the music world with her sudden death the night before the Grammys, Tony Scott shocked the film world when he jumped to his death in Los Angeles and Robin Gibb lost a long battle with cancer. We take a look back at some of the famous names that passed away in 2012.

WHITNEY HOUSTONWhitney Houston, whose soaring voice lifted her to the top of the pop music world but whose personal decline was fueled by years of drug use, died on February 12 in a Beverly Hills hotel room. She was 48. The pop superstar died on the eve of the Grammy Awards at the same hotel where her mentor, record mogul Clive Davis, was holding an annual pre-event party featuring scores of music industry celebrities. A dramatic scene unfolded at the Beverly Hilton Hotel as guests arriving for the party expressed shock at her death, while reporters swarmed the hotel, fans gathered outside to light candles in her memory and helicopters hovered overhead.Beverly Hills police said they were called to the Beverly Hilton at around 3:43 p.m. PST, and fire department personnel who were already at the location responded immediately. Houston was in her fourth-floor room but was unresponsive to CPR, and she was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. An autopsy revealed she died of accidental drowning due to the effects of cocaine and heart disease.

Over the course of a 30-year career in which she established herself as one of the most-admired and influential singers of her time, Houston won six Grammys, 30 Billboard awards and 22 American Music Awards. She released seven studio albums and sold some 170 million CDs, singles and videos. The soundtrack for a hit movie in which she starred, "The Bodyguard," was among the best-selling soundtracks in movie history. Her 1985 debut, "Whitney Houston," became the best-selling debut album by a female act at that time, and spawned several hits including "How Will I Know." Her second studio CD, 1987's "Whitney," became the first album by a female artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. She crossed over from music success to TV and movies, appearing in "The Bodyguard" (1992), as well as "Waiting to Exhale" (1995) and "The Preacher's Wife" (1996).

ROBIN GIBBBee Gees singer Robin Gibb, who with brothers Barry and Maurice helped define the disco era with their falsetto harmonies and funky beats on hits like "Stayin' Alive" and "Jive Talkin'", died on May 21 after a long fight with cancer. He was 62. The singer had colon and liver cancer to which he finally succumbed, despite brief improvements in his health including taking the stage to perform in February. The Bee Gees released their first record in 1963, but it was only in the 1970s that the brothers rose to worldwide fame, culminating in the blockbuster soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever". The band's distinctive tight harmonies and falsetto voices helped it sell an estimated 200 million albums worldwide, making it one of the most successful pop acts in history.

RAVI SHANKAR: Sitarist and composer Ravi Shankar died near his home in Southern California on December 11. Shankar, a three-time Grammy winner with legendary appearances at the 1967 Monterey Festival and Woodstock, had been in fragile health for several years. Shankar is credited with popularizing Indian music through his work with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and The Beatles in the late 1960s, inspiring George Harrison to learn the sitar and the British band to record songs like "Norwegian Wood" (1965) and "Within You, Without You" (1967). He was 92.

TONY SCOTT: British-born filmmaker Tony Scott, director of Hollywood blockbusters like "Top Gun," "Crimson Tide," and "Enemy of the State," jumped to his death on August 19 from a bridge over the Los Angeles Harbor. An autopsy on the 68-year-old director confirmed his death was a suicide but gave no hint as to why he took his own life. Scott, who was frequently seen behind the camera in his signature faded red baseball cap, is credited with directing more than two dozen movies and television shows and producing nearly 50 titles. At the time of his death, Scott was reported to be involved in developing several film projects including a sequel to his biggest hit, the 1986 fighter-jet adventure "Top Gun," which starred Tom Cruise. He was the brother of Oscar-winning directorRidley Scott.

LARRY HAGMANLarry Hagman, who portrayed one of American television's most supreme villains in the conniving, amoral oilman J.R. Ewing of "Dallas," died on November 23. He was 81. He died at a Dallas hospital of complications from his battle with throat cancer. He had suffered from liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver in the 1990s after decades of drinking. "Dallas," which made its premiere on the CBS network in 1978, made Hagman a superstar. The show quickly became one of the network's top-rated programs, built an international following and inspired a spin-off, imitators and a revival in 2012.

ETTA JAMESEtta James, the influential 1950s rhythm-and-blues singer best known for her show-stopping hit "At Last," died on January 20 from complications of leukemia in aCalifornia hospital surrounded by her family. She was 73. James was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and had been in failing health for a number of years. Her live-in doctor said in December 2011 she was terminally ill with the disease. James also suffered from diabetes, kidney problems and dementia and was hospitalized late in 2011 because she was struggling to breathe. Over the decades, James' hit the R&B charts with 30 singles, and placed nine of those songs in pop music's top 40. She has often been cited as influencing singers including Bonnie RaittJanis Joplin and Tina Turner. James won her first Grammy in 1995 for her album, "Mystery Lady: The Songs of Billie Holiday." She also won Grammys in 2003 and 2005, as well as a lifetime achievement award in 2003 from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

The R&B singer saw numerous ups-and-downs in her career and personal life. She struggled with obesity and heroin addiction, ran a hot-check scheme and had troubled relationships with men, including some gangsters. Her weight ballooned, and in 2003 she underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost more than 200 pounds.

ADAM YAUCHAdam Yauch, a founding member of pioneering hip-hop group the Beastie Boys who captivated fans with their brash style in early hits like "Fight for Your Right (To Party)," died on May 4 after a battle with cancer. He was 47. Yauch, Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz formed the band that gained fame in the 1980s and stood out not just for their music, but for their ethnicity. In a genre dominated by African-Americans, they were three white Jewish kids from BrooklynNew York. The Beastie Boys sold some 40 million records worldwide over more than 20 years. As time passed, Yauch branched into filmmaking and activism, helping raise money for various causes including efforts to help free Tibet from Chinese rule. In July 2009, Yauch disclosed he had been diagnosed with a tumor in his left salivary gland and lymph node, and he later had surgery and sought medical treatment in Tibet, among other places.

ANDY GRIFFITH: Actor Andy Griffith, whose portrayal of a small-town sheriff made "The Andy Griffith Show" one of television's most enduring programs, died on July 3 at hisNorth Carolina home at age 86. Griffith created another memorable TV character, the folksy defense lawyer in "Matlock" in the 1980s and 1990s, but it was his role as SheriffAndy Taylor on the "The Andy Griffith Show" in the 1960s that gave him a place in television history. The show depicted life in the friendly, slow-moving fictional town ofMayberryNorth Carolina, which was widely believed to have been based on Griffith's own hometown, Mount Airy.

DICK CLARK: Perennial New Year's Eve master of ceremonies and "American Bandstand" host Dick Clark, whose long-running television dance show helped rock 'n' roll win acceptance in mainstream America, died on April 18 at age 82. Clark, one ofAmerica's best-known TV personalities and the longtime host of ABC's annual "New Year's Rockin' Eve" broadcast from Times Square in Manhattan, suffered a heart attack and died in Santa MonicaCalifornia.

Starting out as a TV announcer in UticaNew York, Clark parlayed his "Bandstand" fame into a career as a host and producer of dozens of other shows, including the American Music Awards and Golden Globes broadcast. Clark's most enduring legacy was his role in introducing rock 'n' roll to a wide U.S. audience while presiding over more than three decades of pop music and dance fads as host of "American Bandstand."

NORA EPHRON: Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nora Ephron, known for romantic comedies "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle," as well as books and essays, died in New York on June 26 after battling leukemia. She was 71. Ephron had suffered from acute myeloid leukemia. She began her career as a journalist but transitioned into movies, leaving behind a legacy of more than a dozen films, often featuring strong female characters, that she either wrote, produced or directed. She was nominated for three Academy Awards for "Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle" and the drama "Silkwood" in which Meryl Streep played an anti-nuclear activist. Other romantic comedies included "You've Got Mail," starring Meg Ryan, and her last film "Julie & Julia" in 2009, which had Streep portraying the fearless celebrity chef Julia Child.

RAY BRADBURYRay Bradbury, a giant of American literature who helped popularize science fiction with poetic, cerebral works such as "The Martian Chronicles," died on June 5 in Los Angeles. He was 91. Bradbury brought not only futuristic vision but literary sensibilities to his more than 500 works published including "Fahrenheit 451," a classic dystopian novel about book censorship in a future society, and other favorites such as "The Illustrated Man" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes." He was awarded the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation. He won an Emmy Award for his teleplay adaptation of his 1972 novel, "The Halloween Tree."

DONNA SUMMER: Disco queen Donna Summer, whose sultry voice and pulsing rhythms on hits like "Last Dance" and "Love to Love You Baby" defined the 1970s disco era, died of cancer on May 17 at age 63. Summer, who won five Grammys and sold more than 130 million records worldwide, died surrounded by her family in Naples,Florida. Born LaDonna Gaines in Boston, she made her debut as a church singer at age 10 and began her professional career in Germany at the age of 18, performing in the shows "Hair" and "Porgy and Bess" and working as a studio session singer. But it wasn't until 1975 that she found fame with the breathy vocals and grinding beat of "Love to Love You Baby." The song was a huge hit in American and European nightclubs even though its overt sexuality made it controversial.

GORE VIDAL: Writer Gore Vidal, who filled his intellectual works with acerbic observations on politics, sex and American culture while carrying on feuds with his big-name literary rivals, died on July 31 at the age of 86. He died of complications of pneumonia in the Los Angeles area. Vidal's literary legacy includes a series of historical novels -- "Burr," "1876," "Lincoln" and "The Golden Age" among them -- as well as the campy transsexual comedy "Myra Breckenridge."

VIDAL SASSOONVidal Sassoon, hair stylist and fashion world icon who created a natural look in the 1960s and built a multi-million dollar business on his name, died on May 9 of apparent natural causes at his home in Los Angeles. He was 84. The British stylist's scissors spelled the end of the 1950s-era beehive and the bouffant - untouchable hairstyles that owed their existence to lacquer and hair pins - and brought him international fame and fortune. Sassoon was dubbed a pioneer by many for coming up with so-called wash and wear looks - liberating many women from weekly salon trips to have their hair done. But as much as he was a genius in the salon, Sassoon was a whiz in business. He began marketing his name, styles and cutting techniques in a worldwide line of beauty salons, hair-cutting schools and later, related lines of hair products.

DAVY JONESDavy Jones, a onetime teen heartthrob as a member of the 1960s made-for-television pop band The Monkees, died on February 29 after suffering a heart attack near his home in Florida. He was 66. Born in Manchester, England, Jones was the lone British member and principal teen idol of the rock quartet featured for two seasons on the NBC comedy series "The Monkees." The prime-time hit was inspired in part by the Beatles film "A Hard Day's Night" and ran from the fall of 1966 to August 1968. Although not allowed to play their own instruments on their early records, Jones and his three cohorts -- Micky DolenzMike Nesmith and Peter Tork -- had several hits that sold millions of copies, including "Last Train to Clarksville" and "I'm a Believer." Jones sang lead vocals on hit singles "Daydream Believer," "A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You," and "Valleri."

DAVE BRUBECK: Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, whose choice of novel rhythms, classical structures and brilliant sidemen made him a towering figure in modern jazz, died at the age of 91. Brubeck succumbed to heart failure on December 5, a day short of his 92nd birthday. His Dave Brubeck Quartet put out one of the best selling jazz songs of all time: "Take Five," composed by alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. Like many of the group's works, it had an unusual beat -- 5/4 time as opposed to the usual 4/4. "Take Five" was the first million copy selling jazz single.

PHYLLIS DILLER: Comedian Phyllis Diller, the former housewife whose raucous cackle and jokes about her own looks made her one of America's first female stand-up comedy stars, died in her sleep on August 20 at age 95. Diller created an indelible persona with her distinctive braying laugh, a cigarette holder, teased hair, outlandish costumes and a fictional lout of a husband she called Fang.

ERNEST BORGNINEErnest Borgnine, whose barrel-chested, bulldog looks made him a natural for tough-guy roles in films like "From Here to Eternity" but who won an Oscarfor playing a sensitive loner in "Marty," died on July 8 at age 95. The real-life U.S. Navy veteran who became a household name during the 1960s by starring as the maverick commander of a World War Two patrol boat in the popular television comedy "McHale's Navy," died in Los Angeles. Borgnine's most memorable turn as a menacing tough guy was his breakout role in the 1953 Oscar-winning film "From Here to Eternity" as the sadistic Sergeant "Fatso" Judson, who terrorizes and eventually kills Frank Sinatra's character, Private Angelo Maggio.

MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCANMichael Clarke Duncan, nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of a death row inmate in the 1999 drama "The Green Mile," died on September 3, less than eight weeks after suffering a heart attack. He was 54. Duncan suffered a heart attack on July 13 and never fully recovered. Duncan's deep voice and hulking 6-foot-5 (1.96-metre) frame gave him a commanding screen presence. He once dug ditches for the gas company in his native Chicago, and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue his career as an actor. He worked as a bodyguard and bouncer and played a few roles of that kind in film and television, before landing a small part in the 1998 movie "Armageddon." That led to a much larger role in the 1999 prison drama "The Green Mile" with Tom Hanks. Duncan played an inmate with magical powers who is put to death for two murders he did not commit.

HAL DAVIDHal David, a lyricist who along with composer Burt Bacharach took the pop world by storm in the 1960s with hits such as "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head" and "Walk on By," died in Los Angeles on September 1 at age 91. David died in Los Angeles of complications from a stroke. Earlier in the year, David and Bacharach received theGershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress, during a White Housemusical tribute. David, a native of BrooklynNew York, began his songwriting career in the late 1940s. He started working with Bacharach in the late 1950s and their songs were recorded by such artists as Frank SinatraMarty Robbins, Tom Jones and Barbra Streisand. Bacharach's and David's song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head" was written for the 1969 movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and won the Academy Award for Best Song.

ANDY WILLIAMSAndy Williams, who charmed audiences with his mellow delivery of songs like "Moon River" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" in the 1950s and 60s, died at his home in BransonMissouri, on September 25. He was 84. The blue-eyed Williams, who continued touring and drawing crowds to his Moon River Theater in the music hub of Branson into his 80s, died after a yearlong battle with bladder cancer. Williams had 18 gold record and three platinum hits and in his peak years was a regular on television with his own variety series. Williams was born in tiny Wall Lake, Iowa, and was singing professionally with three older brothers at age 8. The Williams Brothers had steady work on radio and even sang back-up on Bing Crosby's 1944 hit "Swinging on a Star." Williams went solo after the group broke up in 1951, drew attention with his appearances on "The Tonight Show" and began recording. His first No. 1 hit, "Butterfly," came in 1957.

RICHARD ZANUCKVeteran Hollywood executive Richard D. Zanuck, the prolific producer behind the blockbuster shark thriller "Jaws," the best-picture Oscar-winner "Driving Miss Daisy" and a string of Tim Burton fantasies, died on July 13 of a heart attack at age 77. Zanuck, son of famed 20th Century Fox chieftain Darryl F. Zanuck, was named by his father at age 28 as Fox's head of production, making him Hollywood's then youngest-ever studio boss. Zanuck, who spent the bulk of his career as an independent producer, earned numerous awards during more than 50 years in filmmaking. Among his accolades were the Academy Award he shared with his wife and collaborator, Lili Fini Zanuck, for their work on "Driving Miss Daisy," and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his work with longtime associate David Brown.

SAGE STALLONESage Stallone, the son of actor Sylvester Stallone, died of a heart attack at age 36 on July 13. Stallone suffered from coronary heart disease caused by atherosclerosis, which brought on the heart attack. Sage Stallone's body was found in his Hollywood Hills home after family and friends became concerned when they hadn't heard from him for a day. Sage Stallone was the younger of two sons from the "Rocky" and "Rambo" actor's first marriage to Sasha Czack, whom he divorced in 1985 after about 10 years of marriage. He had appeared in a number of films, most notably with his father in 1990's "Rocky V," playing the title character's son, Rocky Balboa Jr., and in the 1996 disaster movie "Daylight," in which Sylvester Stallone starred as a hero leading an escape from a New York tunnel collapse. Sage played a prison inmate.

MAURICE SENDAK: American writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, who is best known for his classic children's books including "Where the Wild Things Are," died on May 8 at the age of 83. Sendak died in DanburyConnecticut, from complications from a recent stroke. Sendak, who was born in Brooklyn in 1928, illustrated more than 50 books during his career and won a number of prizes for his drawings. The Swedish government awarded him the Hans Christian Anderson Award for children's book illustration in 1970.

RON PALILLO: Actor Ron Palillo, who played class joker Arnold Horshack in the 1970s TV comedy series "Welcome Back, Kotter," died on August 14 at the age of 63.

Palillo died of an apparent heart attack at his home near Palm Beach, Florida. Palillo, whose character was known for the catch-phrase "Ooh-ooh-ooooh!" and his nervous "aawwk" laugh, played Horshack for four years in the 1975-79 ABC comedy, which also starred John Travolta.

ROBERT HEGYESRobert Hegyes, who played the Jewish Puerto Rican wisecracking student Juan Epstein in 1970s comedy "Welcome Back, Kotter," died on January 26 at age 60. The actor appeared alongside John Travolta and Gabe Kaplan in the high school comedy from 1975 until 1979. After "Welcome Back, Kotter," he went on to have a recurring role as Detective Manny Esposito in the 1980s police series "Cagney & Lacey." In all, Hegyes had over 20 television and film acting credits during his career, and was also active in theater.

HELEN GURLEY BROWNHelen Gurley Brown, the legendary editor of Cosmopolitan magazine who helped usher in the 1960s sexual revolution, died on August 13 at age 90. Gurley Brown was editor from 1965 to 1996 at Cosmopolitan, a magazine aimed at young single women, which under her hand became renowned for its provocatively posed models, frank articles and racy headlines extolling the virtues of sex. With Gurley Brown as editor, Cosmopolitan was "the sexiest woman's magazines there was," she said in a 2004 interview with Mediabistro. Gurley Brown was at the forefront of changing sexual mores in the United States and the modern women's liberation movement when she wrote "Sex and the Single Girl," published in 1962. The cheerful book about single life encouraged women to be independent and to have sex freely, whether or not they were married.

MARVIN HAMLISCHMarvin Hamlisch, the award-winning composer of "A Chorus Line" and "The Way We Were", died suddenly at the age of 68 on August 6. Hamlisch, the musical force behind "The Sting" and numerous other movies and Broadway shows, died in Los Angeles after collapsing following what was called "a brief illness". Details were not made public. Hamlisch, who was working until days before his death, earned the rare distinction of winning Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards.

EARL SCRUGGS: Banjo innovator and bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, a member of theCountry Music Hall of Fame, died on March 28 in NashvilleTennessee at age 88. He had been in failing health for some time, according to his son, Gary Scruggs, who played bass guitar with his father. A four-time Grammy winner, Scruggs was perhaps best known in popular culture for "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," the theme song for "The Beverly Hillbillies" television program, and for "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," a Flatt & Scruggs classic which was used in the 1967 film, "Bonnie and Clyde." He was among the first to popularize what is now known as bluegrass music.

MEL STUARTFilmmaker Mel Stuart, director of the 1971 musical classic "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and dozens of documentaries, died at the age of 83. The filmmaker died in Los Angeles on August 9. New York-born Stuart produced or directed more than 180 films, including documentaries ranging from politics ("The Making of the President 1960") to art ("Man Ray: Prophet of the Avant-Garde") and music such as his 1973 film "Wattstax" about African-American singers. His prolific output for big and small screen earned him four Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and numerous prizes from festivals round the world.

CHAD EVERETTChad Everett, star of TV series "Medical Center," died on July 24 at home in Los Angeles of lung cancer. He was 74. Everett was best known for his role as dashing young surgeon Joe Gannon on hospital drama "Medical Center," which ran on U.S. television from 1969 to 1976, and earned him two Golden Globe nominations. His credits include guest-starring roles on 1960s shows such as "77 Sunset Strip" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." After "Medical Center" came roles on the TV mini-series "Centennial" and shows such as "Murder, She Wrote" and "Melrose Place."

SHERMAN HEMSLEYSherman Hemsley, the actor who played George Jefferson on television in "The Jeffersons," a 1970s sitcom that was one of the first to focus on a black family, died at age 74 in El Paso, Texas on July 24 from lung cancer. Hemsley's character of George Jefferson was the affluent and sometimes scheming owner of a dry cleaning business who lived in a New York luxury apartment with his wife, Louise. "The Jeffersons," a spinoff of creator Norman Lear's more politically-oriented show "All In the Family." In that show, the Jeffersons were introduced as the neighbors of Archie andEdith Bunker. "The Jeffersons" ran from 1975 to 1985, and after that show thePhiladelphia-born Hemsley went on to guest star in everything from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" to a role in the series "Family Guy."

DOC WATSON: Grammy-winning U.S. guitarist and folk singer Arthel Lane "Doc" Watsondied on May 29 in a North Carolina hospital following abdominal surgery. He was 89. Watson, who was blinded before his first birthday, won seven Grammy Awards, in addition to the Grammy for lifetime achievement he received in 2004. In 2006 he won in the category of best country instrumental performance for his playing on "Whiskey Before Breakfast."

CELESTE HOLM: Stage and film actress Celeste Holm, who won an Oscar for her role in the 1947 movie "Gentleman's Agreement," died in New York at age 95. Her first major Broadway role came in a 1940 revival of "The Time of Your Life," co-starring fellow newcomer Gene Kelly, and by 1943 she had earned wide recognition portraying AdoAnnie in Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!". Like many theater actors, Holm went to Hollywood where she won the role in director Elia Kazan's tale of anti-semitism, "Gentleman's Agreement," that won her the best supporting actress Oscar. She went on to work on several movies including 1950's "All About Eve," and returned to her first love, Broadway.

ANN RUTHERFORDAnn Rutherford, best known for a small role playing Scarlett O'Hara's optimistic younger sister in "Gone With The Wind," died in Los Angeles on June 11. Rutherford, who had a career in film, radio and television, died after suffering from heart problems, she was 94. Under contract with MGM, she first came to prominence as regular opposite Mickey Rooney in the long-running Andy Hardy film series playing Hardy's teenage girlfriend, Polly Benedict. She was cast in dozens of other films, including with Vivien Leigh in the classic 1939 film "Gone With The Wind," which Rutherford said she had implored then studio head Louis B. Mayer she wanted to do because, "I just wanted to watch the book come to life." She retired from films around 1950 but returned in the early 1970s including guest appearances on the "The Bob Newhart Show."

RICHARD DAWSONRichard Dawson, an actor and TV host best known for his work on the game show "Family Feud" and sitcom "Hogan's Heroes," died from complications of esophageal cancer on June 3. He was 79. The British-born actor appeared on numerous TV shows in the 1960s, but it was his job as the emcee of "Family Feud" where his wit and charm served him best as he helped make the program a big hit of the 1970s and 80s.

BOB WELCH: Bob Welch, an early member of rock band Fleetwood Mac who enjoyed a successful solo career with hits such as "Ebony Eyes," died on June 7 of an apparent suicide at home in Nashville. He was 66. Police said Welch's body was found by his wifeWendy with a single gunshot wound to the chest, and he had left a suicide note. It was after Welch's departure from the band in 1975 that Fleetwood Mac went on to find its largest measure of fame on albums such as 1977's "Rumours" with the addition ofLindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to the band's lineup. Welch fell out with his former band mates after suing the group in 1994 for unpaid royalties, which led to his exclusion from the group's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1998.

JON LORDJon Lord, keyboardist and co-founder of British rock group Deep Purple, died on July 16 in a London hospital at age 71. Lord co-wrote many of Deep Purple's legendary songs including "Smoke On The Water", and went on to play with many other bands and musicians during his career, including rock bands Whitesnake and Paice, Ashton and Lord. He pioneered the fusing of rock and orchestral music, with his Concerto for Group and Orchestra being first performed by Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London's Royal Albert Hall in 1969. Deep Purple was once listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's loudest band and went through many line-ups and a split between 1976 and 1984.

LUPE ONTIVEROSLupe Ontiveros, a veteran Latina character actress who worked in films such as "As Good As It Gets" and on TV shows like "Desperate Housewives," died of lung cancer on July 26. She was 69. Her first roles in the mid-1970s were typical of Hispanic parts, mostly maids and housekeepers, and Ontiveros' friends said that throughout her life she was quick to joke that she'd portrayed domestic workers hundreds of times. In the film "Selena," she played the murderer of the star tejano singer, and in 2002's "Real Women Have Curves" was an overbearing mother. Her film and TV credits number in the hundreds and include roles in Oscar-nominated "As Good As It Gets," which earned Ontiveros an ALMA (American Latino Media Arts) Award.

DON CORNELIUSDon Cornelius, creator of the iconic TV music and dance show "Soul Train" that helped introduce Americans to black pop culture, died on February 1 after shooting himself in the head. Police found the body of Cornelius, 75, at his house in the wealthy, hillside area of Los Angeles of Sherman Oaks. Cornelius, who launched "Soul Train" in Chicago in the early 1970s and hosted it for more than 20 years, told a judge in his 2009 divorce that he was suffering from significant health issues and wanted the case settled quickly. "Soul Train", which ran until 2006, became part of U.S. pop culture history, boosting the careers of newcomers like the Jackson Five and older artists such as James Brown who were trying to tap into a younger audience.

BEN GAZZARA: Actor Ben Gazzara, known for his brooding tough-guy presence in dozens of films, television shows and stage productions over his long career, died of pancreatic cancer on February 3. He was 81. Born Biagio Anthony Gazzara to Italian immigrant parents, the young actor began his career in live theater, most notably in the role of Brick in the original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," directed by Elia Kazan. A three-time Tony nominee for his stage work, Gazzara made his film debut as a sociopathic military academy cadet in the 1957 drama "The Strange One," followed by his breakout role as an accused killer in Otto Preminger's 1959 hit courtroom drama "Anatomy of a Murder."

KOJI WAKAMATSUKoji Wakamatsu, a Japanese director and provocateur who flung sex, violence and politics on the screen in more than 100 films, died on October 17 inTokyo, two weeks after he was named Asian filmmaker of the year at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea. He was 76. Wakamatsu, a self-taught director who never finished school, made some of his most admired films in his last years. News reports said he died of injuries sustained when he was hit by a taxi in Tokyo on October 12. His most recent film, "Caterpillar" (2010), an antiwar drama, tells the story of a highly sexualized marital struggle between a Japanese villager and her husband, a soldier who returns from the Chinese-Japanese wars deaf and disfigured.

LEVON HELMLevon Helm, the drummer for The Band whose twangy vocals brought a poignancy and earthiness to songs like "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Up on Cripple Creek," died on April 19 at the age of 71 from cancer. The three-time Grammy Award winner had been fighting throat cancer since 1998. In 1968 The Band produced the landmark "Music From Big Pink," an album named for the house they rented near Woodstock. That was followed the next year by the "brown album" titled The Band. Viewed by most critics as their masterpiece, the album was steeped in old-time rural Americana and made heavy use of Helm's plaintive Southern drawl. The Band's greatest success came in the early and mid-1970s and, while they were not a huge commercial success, critics loved them. Helm recently earned a spot on Rolling Stone magazine's list of 100 greatest singers of all time.

JENNI RIVERA: Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera died in a plane crash after the small jet she was traveling in went down in northern Mexico. Rivera's plane disappeared shortly after leaving the northern Mexican city of Monterrey early on December 9. Born in Long Beach, California, to Mexican immigrant parents, Rivera has sold some 15 million records in her career and won several awards and Grammy nominations. A mother of five, Rivera was renowned in world of the Nortena and banda musical styles. She was 43.