Here are some of the celebrities we lost in 2021
As much as we would love for it to be possible, no one lives forever. From the moment we’re born, our biological clock starts ticking and no matter what we do to try to slow down the process, eventually we grow up, get old, and pass away. As unfortunate as it is, this is our fate as humans. All we can do is strive to live as long as possible and make every moment count.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, every single human on Earth has had an increased likelihood of death by a large margin. Just like life itself, it hasn’t been dependent on a person’s age. The coronavirus has taken the lives of countless many, and though things have quieted down somewhat, the virus seems poised to take as many as it can get before finally becoming a thing of the past.
This year, we’ve lost many celebrities to both life and the pandemic. For some, it was their natural time to go after contributing to both society and Hollywood for decades. Others, meanwhile, went before they reached such a milestone, dying from unexpected events or health complications. Too many entertainers left us in 2021, but here are ten whose unfortunate passings remind us to cherish every moment that we have in this life and for whom we’ll always be grateful.
As a “Weekend Update” anchor on Saturday Night Live from 1994 to 1997, Norm Macdonald built a comedic reputation for being the guy who would say anything at any time regardless of the consequences. He became a legend in the comedy world and went on to build a career in movies with films like Dirty Work, Billy Madison, and the Dr. Dolittle franchise. He also starred on the small screen in several TV shows including The Orville, Norm, and Mike Tyson Murder Mysteries. After battling cancer for close to a decade, Macdonald died on Sept. 14, according to his longtime producing partner Lori Jo Hoekstra.
A celebrated African American actress whose career spanned almost 100 years years, Cicely Tyson made her mark in every form of entertainment, winning three Emmy Awards, a Tony, an honorary Oscar, and a Peabody Award. She’s well-known for her Oscar-nominated performance in the 1972 drama Sounder and her Emmy-winning role as Ophelia Harkness in How to Get Away with Murder. She’s even more widely recognized for her countless stage performances and recurring roles in numerous Tyler Perry films.
“My heart breaks in one beat, while celebrating her life in the next,” Perry wrote in a statement on the loss of Tyson on Instagram. “To think that she lived for 96 years and I got to be a part of the last 16 brings me great joy. She called me son. Well, today your son grieves your loss and will miss our long talks, your laughter from your belly, and your very presence.”
Tyson died on Jan. 28, but the cause of her death was never announced.
Michael K. Williams
Best known for playing one of the most memorable TV characters of all time ⏤ Baltimore gangster Omar Little on HBO’s The Wire ⏤ Michael K. Williams built a respected career playing various complex roles including another memorable performance as the racketeer Chalky White in the acclaimed HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Williams had a successful career in film and TV, earning Emmy nominations for his roles in the 2015 movie Bessie, the 2016 limited series The Night Of, and 2019’s When They See Us. More recently, he was nominated for the 2020 HBO series Lovecraft Country. Williams was reportedly found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Sept. 6, according to the New York Post. Later in the month, it was ruled that his death was caused by an accidental drug overdose.
An Emmy-winning actress who’d been around since the ’70s, Jessica Walter’s work spans decades and includes memorable performances opposite Clint Eastwood in Play Misty for Me and in the popular 1990s series Dinosaurs. Walters was best known for her memorable roles in Arrested Development and Archer later in her career.
“It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica,” Walter’s daughter, Brooke Bowman, said in a statement to Deadline. “A working actor for over six decades, her greatest pleasure was bringing joy to others through her storytelling both on screen and off. While her legacy will live on through her body of work, she will also be remembered by many for her wit, class, and overall joie de vivre.”
Walter died in her sleep at her home in New York City on March 24, according to Bowman.
James Michael Tyler
Best known as the lovable Central Perk barista Gunther on the hit show Friends, James Michael Tyler was an actor just as beloved as the rest of the famous cast.
“The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh ‘Friend’) from the hit series Friends, but Michael’s loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate, and loving husband,” Toni Benson, Tyler’s manager, wrote in a statement provided to AP. “Michael loved live music, cheering on his Clemson Tigers, and would often find himself in fun and unplanned adventures.”
Tyler passed away from prostate cancer on Oct. 24.
Dean Stockwell is best known for playing Admiral “Al” Calavicci on the hit sci-fi series Quantum Leap in the early ’90s. He also played Brother Cavil in the early 2000s revival of Battlestar Galactica. Before that, Stockwell was already a seasoned former child actor with a career going as far back as the 1940s, having starred alongside actors like Frank Sinatra and Errol Flynn. In the ’50s, he was widely known for both Broadway and TV before actually being cast decades later in the first 1984 adaptation of Dune. Stockwell continued building a respectable film career with movies like To Live and Die in L.A., Beverly Hills Cop II, and 1988’s Married to the Mob. He died at home of natural causes on Nov. 7.
A renowned broadcaster who had been on radio and TV since the 1950s, Larry King spoke to all types of people and was regarded as one of the best interviewers ever thanks to the friendly style he used with his guests. He’s best known for his show Larry King Live, which ran on CNN from 1985 to 2010. It was the network’s most-watched and longest-running show of all time. On it, King spoke to the most prominent figures of the time, including celebrities and presidents. He died on Jan. 23 after a week-long battle with COVID in the hospital, but it was later announced that the cause of death was sepsis and two other health conditions.
There’s no disputing the fact that Earl Simmons ⏤ better known by his rap name DMX ⏤ made a big impact on hip hop. His gritty voice combined with his stories full of anguish and pain helped a whole generation of people deal with their personal struggles. His breakout song “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” is one of the most widely-known songs in hip hop and his acting talents landed him roles in films like Belly and Romeo Must Die. Unfortunately, DMX lived a hard life and eventually succumbed to it on April 9 after suffering from a heart attack.
“DMX was a brilliant artist and an inspiration to millions around the world,” Def Jam Records, the record label where DMX recorded some of his biggest hits, wrote in a statement following his death. “His message of triumph over struggle, his search for the light out of darkness, his pursuit of truth and grace brought us closer to our own humanity…DMX was nothing less than a giant. His legend will live on forever.”
Best known for playing the bumbling comic relief Samuel “Screech” Powers on the beloved 1990s series Saved by the Bell, Diamond passed away after a brief fight with carcinoma.
“We are saddened to confirm Dustin Diamond’s passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma,” Diamond’s representative said in a statement provided to Insider. “He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system. The only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful.”
Willie Garson is best known for playing talent agent Stanford Blatch ⏤ best friend of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw ⏤ on the HBO series Sex and the City. He reprised his role in both SATC films and had been filming for the network’s upcoming revival series And Just Like That at the time of his death. Garson also co-starred as the con man Mozzie on White Collar from 2009 to 2014 and appeared in several comedies including There’s Something About Mary, Groundhog Day, and Little Manhattan. After a fight with pancreatic cancer, Garson died on Sept. 21.
We will remember these celebrities, as well as the many others who left us this year, with nothing but fond and grateful memories.