© 2024 Marfa Public Radio
A 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Lobby Hours: Monday - Friday 10 AM to Noon & 1 PM to 4 PM
For general inquiries: (432) 729-4578
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Remembering the actors, musicians, writers and artists we lost in 2023

Clockwise from left: Sinéad O'Connor, Tina Turner, Matthew Perry, Wayne Shorter, Paul Reubens and Harry Belafonte
Getty Images; Brian Rasic/Getty Images; Getty Images; Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty Images; Danny Moloshok/AP; AFP via Getty Images
Clockwise from left: Sinéad O'Connor, Tina Turner, Matthew Perry, Wayne Shorter, Paul Reubens and Harry Belafonte

The worlds of art, music, literature, film and more lost some of their most notable giants and geniuses in 2023. Here are just a few of the actors, writers, producers, artists and musicians who died in the past year, listed chronologically below by the dates of their deaths. (You can find a tribute to many more musicians here.)

Free-spirited icon of American rock David Crosby

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/01/19/750902962/david-crosby-obituary">Read David Crosby's obituary</a></strong>
Ebet Roberts / Redferns
Read David Crosby's obituary

Crosby was a prominent figure of the 1970s Laurel Canyon scene who helped bring folk-rock mainstream with bothThe Byrds andCrosby, Stills & Nash. He developed a harmony-rich vocal approach and kaleidoscopic sound, which incorporated psychedelic rock, jazz and twangy folk. As a songwriter, Crosby's canon included the stormy classic "Eight Miles High" and "Almost Cut My Hair" from the hit album Déjà Vu. He died Jan. 18 at age 81. Read Annie Zaleski and Eric Westervelt's remembrance.

Burt Bacharach, who composed an astonishing number of hits

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/02/09/561555285/burt-bacharach-obituary">Read Burt Bacharach's obituary</a></strong>
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images
Getty Images
Read Burt Bacharach's obituary

The visionary pop composer wrote music that sounded simple. But there was nothing simple about the songs now seared in the memories of generations of listeners. They include "I Say a Little Prayer," "Walk on By," "What the World Needs Now" and "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head." He died on Feb. 8 at age 94. Read Elizabeth Blair's remembrance.

Sage of the saxophone and visionary jazz composer Wayne Shorter

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/03/02/768874324/wayne-shorter-sage-of-the-saxophone-dies-at-89">Read Wayne Shorter's obituary</a></strong>
Christophe Simon / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
Read Wayne Shorter's obituary

The 12-time Grammy-winning saxophonist and composer created some of the most singular sounds in contemporary jazz over more than half a century. From the hard bop of the late 1950s to genre-defying small-group jazz in the '60s all the way through the birth of rock-influenced jazz in the '70s, Shorter's soprano and tenor saxophones offered sonic clarion calls for change and innovation. He died on March 2 at age 89. Read Felix Contreras' remembrance.

Ryuichi Sakamoto, trailblazing godfather of electronic pop

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/04/02/959184720/ryuichi-sakamoto-a-godfather-of-electronic-pop-has-died">Read Ryuichi Sakamoto's obituary</a></strong>
Thomas Coex / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
Read Ryuichi Sakamoto's obituary

The Japanese composer was one of the first musicians to bring electronic production into popular songcraft though his band Yellow Magic Orchestra. As a solo artist, he collaborated with the likes of David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Sakamoto also scored such movies as Pedro Almodóvar's High Heels and Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, which earned him an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy. He died March 28 at age 71. Read Anastasia Tsioulcas' remembrance.

Raghavan Iyer, an icon of accessible Indian cooking in the U.S.

The chef and author did much to popularize Indian cooking in non-South Asian kitchens through an approachable series of books that encouraged straying from traditional preparations. He also created a line of frozen dinners sold at Target. Iyer's final book, On the Curry Trail, was published just a few months before his death. He died March 31 at age 61. Listen back to Iyer's 2023 interview with Ari Shapiro.

Designer Mary Quant, who styled London's Swinging '60s

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/04/13/1112008523/mary-quant-obituary">Read Mary Quant's obituary</a></strong>
Ronald Dumont / Getty Images
Getty Images
Read Mary Quant's obituary

One of the most influential designers of her era, Dame Mary Quant is credited with spreading the gospel of hot pants, miniskirts, colorful tights, waterproof mascara, baby wale corduroy, dresses with pockets, shiny PVC raincoats and Vidal Sassoon bobs. While only in her 20s, Quant opened a shop on Kings Road that evolved into a global fashion brand. She died April 13 at age 93. Read Neda Ulaby's remembrance.

Ahmad Jamal, who helped define American jazz for nearly a century

<a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/04/16/846207919/ahmad-jamal-obituary">Read Ahmad Jamal's obituary</a>
Rémy Gabalda / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
Read Ahmad Jamal's obituary

Over eight decades of performance, jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal influenced everyone from Miles Davis to MacArthur Award-winning pianist Jason Moran. He recorded scores of records, including his 1963 crossover hit "Poinciana," which stayed on the charts for 108 weeks. He died April 16 at age 92. Read Martin Johnson's remembrance.

Harry Belafonte: singer, actor, activist and an EGOT for the ages

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/04/25/516446742/harry-belafonte-dead">Read Harry Belafonte's obituary</a></strong>
/ AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
Read Harry Belafonte's obituary

Easily one of the 20th century's most charismatic performers, Belafonte won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. In the 1950s, he set off a craze for calypso music with his chart-topping recording of "Day-O" (also known as "The Banana Boat Song"). Among other achievements, Belafonte helped organize the 1963 Freedom March on Washington. He died April 25 at age 96. Read Elizabeth Blair's remembrance.

Incomparable soul and rock powerhouse Tina Turner

Brian Rasic / Getty Images
Getty Images

An eight-time Grammy winner, Turner was known for her octave-defying voice and mesmerizing stage moves. In a recording career that spanned six decades, she found fame both as a solo artist and in a duo with her first husband, Ike Turner. Her story of surviving his abuse became the basis of the 1993 biopic What's Love Got to Do with It. She died May 24 at age 83. Read Annie Zaleski's remembrance.

NPR correspondent Wade Goodwyn, known for keen storytelling

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/06/08/1167837454/wade-goodwyn-npr-correspondent-dies">Read Wade Goodwyn's obituary</a></strong>
/ Allison Shelley/NPR
Allison Shelley/NPR
Read Wade Goodwyn's obituary

The Texas-based radio journalist reported on his home state for the better part of three decades. His top stories included coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing, school shootings,hurricanes, the American Sniper murder trial and the Boy Scouts sexual abuse scandal. Known for his soothing bass baritone, Goodwyn was widely admired by his colleagues. He died June 8 at age 63. Read Debbie Elliott's remembrance.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon singer CoCo Lee

She was the Mandarin voice of the title character in Disney's animated movie Mulan and a hitmaker in three languages. The Hong Kong-born singer was a huge star in Asia. Lee recorded 18 studio albums and became the first person of Chinese descent to perform at the Academy Awards with her rendition of "A Love Before Time" in 2001 from the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She died July 5 at age 48. Read Chloe Veltman's remembrance.

Tony Bennett, whose silky voice epitomized the American Songbook

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/07/21/260757258/tony-bennett-king-of-the-american-songbook-dead-at-96">Read Tony Bennett's obituary</a></strong>
Bernt Claesson / Pressens Bild/AFP via Getty Images
Pressens Bild/AFP via Getty Images
Read Tony Bennett's obituary

Bennett began as a suave crooner in the 1950s and quickly established himself as one of radio's most popular hit makers. He was a showman, with an intimate nightclub sensibility. Bennett used his celebrity on behalf of civil rights and later in life replenished his fandom through collaborations with musicians ranging from k.d. lang to Lady Gaga. He died July 21 at age 96. Read Walter Ray Watson's remembrance here.

Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor, whose music was loved globally

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/07/26/529671631/irish-singer-sinead-oconnor-has-died-at-56">Read Sinéad O'Connor's obituary</a></strong>
/ Getty Images
Getty Images
Read Sinéad O'Connor's obituary

Sinéad O'Connor was known for her intense and beautiful voice, her political convictions, and the personal tumult that overtook her later years. Her album, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, went double platinum in 1990. At the height of her fame, she elicited howls of outrage for her prescient warnings against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. She died July 26 at age 56. Read Neda Ulaby and Anastasia Tsioulcas' remembrance here.

Paul Reubens, the actor better known as Pee-wee Herman

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/07/31/1191104833/pee-wee-herman-dead-paul-reubens">Read Paul Reubens' obituary</a></strong>
Danny Moloshok / AP
Read Paul Reubens' obituary

Joyful, odd and subversive, Paul Reubens' character rode his bicycle through 1980s pop culture in a red bow tie and tight gray suit, shouting, "I know you are but what am I?" First created in the sketch comedy group The Groundlings, Pee-wee found a devoted fandom through TV shows and in movies. He died July 30 at age 70. Read Glen Weldon's remembrance.

Writer and activist Roberto Rodríguez, who chronicled Chicano life

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/08/04/1192070333/prolific-writer-on-chicano-life-roberto-rodriguez-dies-at-69">Hear a remembrance of Roberto Rodríguez</a></strong>
/ Special Collections at the University of Arizona Libraries
Special Collections at the University of Arizona Libraries
Hear a remembrance of Roberto Rodríguez

In 1979, reporter Roberto Rodríguez witnessed police brutality in Los Angeles. While trying to document it, he was attacked by L.A. County Sheriff's deputies, ending up hospitalized for days. That led him to write Justice: A Question of Race. Over the years, he also wrote poems and articles, taught at the University of Arizona and became one of the most prominent Chicano writers. He died July 31 at age 69. Hear A Martínez's remembrance.

Trop rock king Jimmy Buffett, who lived life like one of his songs

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/09/02/1197440754/remembering-jimmy-buffett">Hear Jimmy Buffett's obituary</a></strong>
Noam Galai / Getty Images for Escape To Margaritaville
Getty Images for Escape To Margaritaville
Hear Jimmy Buffett's obituary

Even though "Margaritaville" was his only top 10 hit, Jimmy Buffett sold out venues for decades. His fans, known as Parrotheads, developed their own subculture. Over the years, Buffett built that laid-back island brand into a sprawling business empire — restaurants, hotels, merchandise, even retirement communities. He died Sept. 1 at age 76. Hear Scott Detrow's remembrance here.

Fernando Botero, one of Latin America's most celebrated artists

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/09/15/1199762401/fernando-botero-colombian-artist-dies">Read Fernando Botero's obituary</a></strong>
Fredy Builes / Reuters
Read Fernando Botero's obituary

Known for his whimsical, rotund figures that poked fun at the upper class of his native Colombia, Botero also explored political themes ranging from drug violence to abuses by U.S. military personal in Abu Ghraib. The artist's work can be seen at many major museums around the world, including the Museo Botero in Bogotá. He died Sept. 15 at age 91. Read John Otis' remembrance.

Khaled Khalifa, a titan of contemporary Arabic literature

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/10/06/1204349572/syrian-author-khaled-khalifa-a-titan-of-contemporary-arabic-literature-dies-at-5">Hear a remembrance of Khaled Khalifa</a></strong>
Louai Beshara / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
Hear a remembrance of Khaled Khalifa

A celebrated poet, screenwriter and novelist, Khalifa was known for his outspoken nature and proclivity to critique Syria's government, resulting in his work sometimes being banned. His 2016 novel, Death Is Hard Work lays bare the anguish of his country's brutal civil war. He died Sept. 30 at age 59. Hear a remembrance.

Nobel Prize-winning poet Louise Glück

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/10/13/1205851483/louise-gluck-dead">Read Louise Glück's obituary</a></strong>
Robin Marchant / Getty Images
Getty Images
Read Louise Glück's obituary

Her spare, incisive verse won fistfuls of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Humanities Medal and the National Book Award. Her 2020 Nobel citation praised "her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal." But Glück's first book was rejected 28 times. She died Oct. 13 at age 80. Read Chloe Veltman's remembrance.

Richard Roundtree, Shaft star and one of the coolest actors ever

Shaft brought audiences one of the first Black action heroes, embodied by Roundtree in a sweeping leather coat and ineffable style. The 1971 low-budget movie became a smash hit and helped create an entire genre: Blaxploitation. The actor starred in a few Shaft sequels and appeared in more than 150 movie and TV shows, ranging from Roots to Desperate Housewives to Being Mary Jane. He died Oct. 24 at age 81. Read Neda Ulaby's remembrance.

Friends star Matthew Perry, who became a spokesperson for recovery

<strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2023/10/28/1209291002/matthew-perry-dead-friends">Read Matthew Perry's obituary</a></strong>
/ Getty Images
Getty Images
Read Matthew Perry's obituary

The actor achieved extraordinary celebrity as snarky Chandler Bing, an offbeat heartthrob over 10 seasons of one of the most successful TV sitcoms ever. Perry chronicled an epic struggle with addiction to drugs and alcohol in his 2022 memoir, estimating he'd spent half of his life in treatment. He died Oct. 28 at age 54. Read Emma Bowman's remembrance.

Norman Lear, who made funny sitcoms about serious topics

In the 1970s and '80s, Norman Lear dominated network television with hugely popular hits that included All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. His shows tackled racial prejudice, addiction, abortion and other social issues. Lear was also a liberal political activist whose causes included free speech and voter registration. He died Dec. 5 at age 101. Read Selena Simmons-Duffin's remembrance.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Neda Ulaby
Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.