Death took its usual toll this year, and seemingly then some. Genocide, war, terrorist attacks, disease — yikes. But for the purposes of our annual tribute to influential cultural notables whose deaths deserve a little extra note, it was a terrible harvest. In addition to the loss of A-list names like Paul Newman and Heath Ledger, Studs Terkel and David Foster Wallace, Tim Russert and Jesse Helms, Isaac Hayes and Bo Diddley, the sort of semi-famous/semi-obscure folks whose passing catches our notice for possible inclusion in this roll call overwhelmed us. Yes, famous comedian Bernie Mac passed, but so did infamous comedian Rudy Ray Moore. Jimi Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell died, but so did Earl Palmer, whose playing formed the bedrock of almost any early rock or R&B record you care to name, and Buddy Miles, whose soulful whomp propelled the second stage of Hendrix’ music. The list of names we could have included here is way longer than six feet under: exotic multi-octave diva Yma Sumac, pioneering magazine editor Clay Felker, LSD inventor Albert Hofmann, jazz clarinetist/musical explorer Jimmy Giuffre, former Indonesian dictator Suharto, ’60s guru Maharishi Maresh Yogi, film critic Manny Farber, and more. Nonetheless, herein we offer accounts of some of the lives lost this year whose effect during their time here will outlast the pulp this newspaper is printed on.
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