2018 celebrity deaths: Aretha Franklin, Mac Miller, Anthony Bourdain and more

Stan Lee, Aretha Franklin and Mac Miller are among the entertainers who died in 2018. (Photo: Getty Images)

Just as the year brought new faces on the entertainment scene, 2018 marked the curtain call for dozens of stars, many of whom created the songs, performances, characters and ideas that have shaped our culture. Here are some of the most notable stars we lost this year. — Raechal Shewfelt and Gwynne Watkins

Dolores O’Riordan

Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries performs at the Cognac Blues Passion festival in France, on July 7, 2016. (Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP/Getty Images)

Date: Jan. 15
Cause of death: Drowning due to alcohol intoxication
Age: 46

The Cranberries frontwoman’s haunting voice on songs such as “Zombie” made the band a ’90s phenomenon, even meriting a mention in the pop-culture-savvy film Clueless. The Irish singer and songwriter released two solo albums before reuniting with the Cranberries in 2009, and she was in London for a short recording session when she died.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Date: Jan. 22
Cause of death: Unclear
Age: 88

Best known for her Earthsea series of books, Le Guin penned dozens of titles, which adults and children alike snapped up worldwide, and several of which she adapted for television. Her lengthy list of accolades includes the United States Library of Congress’s May 2000 inclusion of Le Guin on its prestigious list of Living Legends, all people who have significantly contributed to America’s cultural heritage.

Mark Salling

Date: Jan. 30
Cause of death: Suicide
Age: 35

Salling was part of the musical cast of Glee, in which he played bully Puck, from 2009 to 2015. He was also known for his legal issues; at the time of his death, Salling was facing four to seven years in prison after having pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in October 2017.

John Mahoney

Date: Feb. 4
Cause of death: Throat cancer
Age: 77

Though he didn’t act professionally until he was in his 40s, the theater veteran became a television icon with the role of Frasier Crane’s salt-of-the-earth father, Martin, on Frasier, which ran for 11 seasons from 1993-2004. Prior to starring on the Cheers spinoff, Mahoney established himself as a big-screen character actor, playing Ione Skye’s father in Say Anything, the man who wooed Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck, and a member of Michael Douglas’s Cabinet in The American President. His final television role was a recurring part opposite Betty White in the TV Land comedy Hot in Cleveland.

Reg E. Cathey

Reg E. Cathey holds his Emmy for guest actor in a drama for House of Cards during the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Sept. 12, 2015, in L.A. (Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Date: Feb. 9
Cause of death: Lung cancer
Age: 59

Audiences watched Cathey’s performances in HBO’s acclaimed series The Wire and in movies such as The Mask. In 2015, he won an Emmy for his guest performance as Freddy on House of Cards and was nominated for the same award in 2014 and 2016.

Vic Damone

Date: Feb. 11
Cause of death: Respiratory illness
Age: 89

Damone said he “tried to mimic” Frank Sinatra, but he ended up with a 50-year career of his own as a crooner, selling millions of records, making dozens of TV appearances and pulling in crowds at nightclubs into his 70s. He also earned props from Sinatra, who said he had “the best pipes in the business.”

David Ogden Stiers

Date: March 3
Cause of death: Bladder cancer
Age: 75

For baby boomers, he was the droll Major Charles Winchester on M*A*S*H; for millennials, he was the voice of Cogsworth in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Stiers began his career in a Shakespeare troupe before playing a series of TV guest roles, culminating in his stint on the groundbreaking wartime ensemble comedy. Later in life, Stiers focused more on voice acting, lending his distinctive baritone to the pompous clock and other characters.

Stephen Hawking

Date: March 14
Cause of death: ALS
Age: 76

Not only was the British theoretical physicist one of the world’s preeminent scientists, he loomed large in pop culture. He wrote the 1988 best-selling book A Brief History of Time, appeared as himself on shows such as The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and inspired the critically acclaimed 2014 movie The Theory of Everything.

Hubert de Givenchy

Date: March 10
Cause of death: Not given.
Age: 91

Audrey Hepburn. Jackie Kennedy. Elizabeth Taylor. The French fashion designer created looks for them all before retiring from his fashion house in 1995. His most famous work is Audrey Hepburn’s iconic little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and other looks from her most famous movies.

Steven Bochco

Date: April 1
Cause of death: Leukemia
Age: 74

Bochco was a giant in his field, having co-created some of TV’s most popular series, including Hill Street Blues, Doogie Howser, M.D. and the edgy NYPD Blue, in the ’80s and ’90s. (Though he was also known for failed musical drama Cop Rock.) Over his 50-year career, Bochco was nominated for 30 Emmys, 10 of which he won.

Milos Forman

Date: April 13
Cause of death: A brief illness
Age: 86

Winning the Oscar for Best Director once is a feat, but Forman won twice — for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1976 and, nine years later, for Amadeus. He was also nominated in 1996 for helming The People vs. Larry Flynt.

Harry Anderson

Date: April 16
Cause of death: Stroke
Age: 65

Best known for playing wacky, lovable Judge Harry Stone on the long-running NBC sitcom Night Court, Anderson was an actor and magician who frequently combined these talents in his performances. Winner of three Emmys for Night Court between 1985 and 1987, Anderson went on to star in the title role of the ’90s CBS comedy Dave’s World, inspired by columnist Dave Barry. He’s also remembered for starring as the adult Richie Tozier in the popular 1990 horror miniseries It.


Avicii performs at the Conga Room at L.A. Live on Feb. 8, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Tribal Brands)

Date: April 20
Cause of death: Suicide
Age: 28

A DJ and producer who helped bring electronic dance music into the mainstream, Avicii was the musician behind the folktronica hit “Wake Me Up,” which charted worldwide in 2013. Born Tim Bergling, the Swedish pop star collaborated with Madonna and Coldplay and received Grammy nominations for his singles “Sunshine” (co-produced with David Guetta) and “Le7els.”

Verne Troyer

Date: April 21
Cause of death: Suicide
Age: 49

The actor memorably starred as Mini-Me — a nod to his 2-foot-8-inch stature — in two Austin Powers movies in 1999 and 2002. He later appeared as himself on multiple seasons of the VH1 reality show The Surreal Life.

Bob Dorough

Date: April 23
Cause of death: Natural causes
Age: 94

Dorough was already a successful jazz musician who had recorded with Miles Davis when he was commissioned in 1971 to “set the multiplication tables to music.” The result was the educational Saturday morning cartoon Schoolhouse Rock, which aired from 1973 to 1985.

Margot Kidder

Margot Kidder attends Philadelphia Comic Con 2011 on June 18, 2011. (Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)

Date: May 13
Cause of death: Suicide
Age: 69

Just as Christopher Reeve was known as Superman in the ’70s and ’80s, Kidder was famous for playing his love interest, Lois Lane, in the blockbuster franchise. She also starred in another hit, 1979’s The Amityville Horror, and won an Emmy Award for her work on R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour in 2015. Personally, Kidder was a mental health advocate who spoke candidly about her struggle with bipolar disorder.

Tom Wolfe

Date: May 14
Cause of death: Infection
Age: 88

Instrumental in the New Journalism literary movement, Wolfe was influential for both his magazine pieces, which appeared in Esquire, New York Magazine and elsewhere, and for his books, such as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Both The Right Stuff, the true story of America’s first astronauts, and infamous box-office flop The Bonfire of the Vanities were born from his skillful use of words.

Philip Roth

Date: May 22
Cause of death: Congestive heart failure
Age: 85

The prolific writer of more than 25 novels, including Portnoy’s Complaint and American Pastoral, many of which were made into movies, was known for examining male sexuality and Jewish American life. While often controversial, Roth racked up scores of literary awards, including the coveted Pulitzer Prize for 1997’s American Pastoral.

Kate Spade

Designer Kate Spade visits AOL’s Build Series on April 28, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Monica Schipper/WireImage)

Date: June 5
Cause of death: Suicide
Age: 55

A fashion designer who became synonymous with the handbags that bear her name, Spade turned her keen eye for accessories into a world-famous, unusually accessible luxury brand. Born in Kansas City, Mo., Spade started out as a fashion magazine editor before launching her first line of colorful purses in 1993. The Kate Spade label expanded over the years to include everything from shoes to dinnerware and was acquired by Coach in 2017 for $2.4 billion.

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain attends an event for his book Appetites: A Cookbook at Williams-Sonoma Columbus Circle on Dec. 2, 2016, in New York City. (Photo: Owen Hoffmann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Date: June 8
Cause of death: Suicide
Age: 61

The chef turned roving TV host, most recently on CNN’s Parts Unknown, dug into the culture as much as the food in the far-flung places he visited. In 2013, he was honored with a prestigious Peabody Award for “expanding our palates and horizons in equal measure.”


Date: June 18
Cause of death: Shooting
Age: 20

The rapper, whose real name was Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, was gunned down as he left a motorcycle dealership in Deerfield, Fla., just three months after releasing his second album, titled ?, which debuted at the top spot on the Billboard album chart. He managed to impress a number of heavyweight artists, including Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West, in his short career. After he died, Rolling Stone compared the music world’s loss of the up-and-coming artist — whose personal life was undeniably controversial — to that of Ritchie Valens.

Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson attends the premiere of Sicario at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2015. (Photo: Laurent Koffel/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Date: June 27
Cause of death: Pancreatic cancer
Age: 89

The onetime amateur musician created the Jackson 5 — one of the first black groups to achieve international success and the act that introduced the world to the legendary Michael Jackson — and oversaw his children’s solo careers. However, his legacy is not without controversy, as his children have said he sometimes hit them and forced them to rehearse for hours on end.

Tab Hunter

Tab Hunter attends a special screening of Tab Hunter Confidential on Oct. 12, 2015, in New York City. (Photo: Rommel Demano/Getty Images)

Date: July 8
Cause of death: Cardiac arrest
Age: 86

In the 1950s, Hunter, an actor in movies and TV shows, such as Damn Yankees, was a heartthrob, receiving a reported 62,000 Valentines in 1956. He continued to act in shows such as The Love Boat and the movie Grease 2 in the ’70s and ’80s and, after speaking out about his homosexuality in his 2005 biography, Tab Hunter Confidential, became an icon in the gay community.

Charlotte Rae

Charlotte Rae attends Hallmark’s Home and Family Facts of Life Reunion at Universal Studios on Feb. 12, 2016, in Universal City, Calif. (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Date: Aug. 5
Cause of death: Cardiac arrest
Age: 92

Though Rae began her career as a standup comedian and worked extensively in music and musical theater, she earned her place in pop culture history playing the part of Edna Garrett. Rae portrayed her on ’70s sitcom Diff’rent Strokes and went on to stay in the role for seven seasons on its spinoff, The Facts of Life.

Aretha Franklin

Date: Aug. 16
Cause of death: Pancreatic cancer
Age: 76

The “Queen of Soul” used her voice to make songs such as “Respect” and “Think” anthems of the civil rights and women’s movements. Franklin was the first female performer inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, recorded 112 singles that made the Billboard charts — setting a record for a female artist — and sang at three presidential inaugurations, among her many accomplishments.

Robin Leach

Date: Aug. 24
Cause of death: Stroke
Age: 76

With one of television’s most recognizable speaking voices, London-born journalist Robin Leach rose to fame in 1984 as the host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, a syndicated series that paved the way for such gawking-at-wealth reality shows as Cribs and Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Before that, he was a newspaper reporter and one of the original 1981 hosts of Entertainment Tonight. Leach continued to work as a television personality throughout his life, appearing on shows like Shark Tank and Top Chef, and hosting a season of VH1’s The Surreal Life.

Neil Simon

Date: Aug. 26
Cause of death: Complications from pneumonia
Age: 91

One of America’s most-produced and most prolific playwrights, Simon was known for his riotous comedies about contemporary life, often focused on middle-class, Jewish city dwellers. His seminal 1960s plays include The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park, both of which he adapted into popular, Oscar-nominated films. In 1991, he received the Pulitzer Prize for his comedy-drama Lost in Yonkers. In total, Simon had more than 30 plays mounted on Broadway and wrote more than 20 screenplays, along with two memoirs.

Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds arrives at the premiere of The Last Movie Star on March 22, 2018, in Hollywood. (Photo: Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)

Date: Sept. 6
Cause of death: Cardiac arrest
Age: 82

Reynolds ruled the box office in the ’70s and ’80s with movies including Smokey and the Bandit, and was featured as his mustached, heartthrob self on The Golden Girls and Beverly Hills, 90210. He later starred in his own show, ’90s sitcom Evening Shade, and earned a nomination for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his turn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 film Boogie Nights.

Mac Miller

Date: Sept. 7
Cause of death: Accidental drug overdose
Age: 26

The rapper achieved incredible success in his short career, beginning with the fact that his debut album, 2011’s Blue Slide Park, was the first independently distributed album to top the Billboard 200 chart since 1995. Miller, who famously collaborated both professionally and personally with singer Ariana Grande, released his fifth and final album just five weeks before he died.

Scott Wilson

Date: Oct. 6
Cause of death: Complications from leukemia
Age: 76

While best known today as Hershel Greene, the role he played on The Walking Dead beginning in 2011, Wilson’s long career included turns in high-profile projects such as Robert Redford’s The Great Gatsby and the original adaptation of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, in which he played one of the murderers. He was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1980 for his role in the movie The Ninth Configuration.

Stan Lee

Date: Nov. 12
Cause of death: Cardiac arrest, respiratory and congestive heart failure
Age: 95

Spider-Man, the Hulk, Black Panther, Iron Man and many other superheroes sprang, in part, from the mind of the Marvel Comics great, who helped revolution the industry in the 1960s and continued to appear at comic book conventions until his health wouldn’t allow it. Lee also played a critical part in bringing his larger-than-life characters to the big screen, where he often appeared in cameo roles.

Roy Clark

Date: Nov. 15
Cause of death: Complications from pneumonia
Age: 85

For 24 years, from 1969 to 1993, Clark hosted the country music showcase Hee Haw, welcoming guests such as Dolly Parton, Ray Charles and Loretta Lynn. A musician himself, Clark was named the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year in 1973 and, in 1983, won a Grammy for his instrumental work on the song “Alabama Jubilee.” He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

William Goldman

Date: Nov. 16
Cause of death: Complications from colon cancer and pneumonia
Age: 87

Iconic movies such as All the President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride wouldn’t exist without Goldman’s words. The esteemed screenwriter and novelist won two Oscars and a reputation as one of the best in his business in a career that also included work on the scripts of Marathon Man and Misery, as well as uncredited touchups on Good Will Hunting and other films.

Stephen Hillenburg

Date: Nov. 26
Cause of death: ALS
Age: 57

Nickelodeon’s long-running show SpongeBob SquarePants, which became a global phenomenon, came from the mind of Hillenburg, who studied both animation and sea life as a student. In 2004, Hillenburg brought the adventures of his characters in Bikini Bottom to movie screens in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and he executive-produced its sequel.

Penny Marshall

Penny Marshall attends the “Saturday Night Live” 40th Anniversary Celebration on Feb. 15, 2015, in New York City. (Photo: D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)

Date: Dec. 17
Cause of death: Complications from diabetes
Age: 75

The actress turned director won fans over in the ’70s on TV, playing Laverne DeFazio on the popular Happy Days spinoff Laverne & Shirley. In the following decades, Marshall transitioned to directing and made some of the era’s biggest hits, including 1988’s Big — the first female-directed movie to make $100 million — and A League of Their Own in 1992. Her final film, a documentary on Dennis Rodman, is scheduled to be released on Sept. 1, 2019.

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