Gone, but not forgotten, there have been many recent celebrity deaths in 2021. From superstars like DMX and Jessica Walters to legendary talents like Clarence Williams III, we have had to say goodbye to a lot of famous faces this year. We wanted to keep up with all of the recent celebrity deaths this year to make sure we do our part to honor the legacies of some very impactful and beautiful souls.
As we take a look back at some of the famous legends we lost in 2021, we encourage you to revisit the works that made them famous in the first place as many are immortalized in their writing, performances, and other works. Let’s take a moment to memorialize these talented, inspiring, and influential celebrities.
Here Are the Recent Celebrity Deaths of 2021
One of the most influential and beloved icons of musical theater, Stephen Sondheim passed away at the age of 91 on Nov. 26. Sondheim was the genius behind the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, as well as music and lyrics for Sweeney Todd, Follies, Company, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, and many more Broadway shows.
James Michael Tyler
Best-known for playing Gunther on Friends, James Michael Tyler died Oct. 24 of prostate cancer. The actor was 59 years old.
One of the most surprising recent celebrity deaths involved Bosom Buddies actor Peter Scolari who died Oct. 22 after a two-year battle with cancer. The seasoned actor was nominated for an Emmy for his performance as Michael Harris on Newhart and took home the Emmy for his recurring role on HBO’s Girls.
The first Black secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell died Oct. 18. He was 84 years old. Powell died from complications of COVID-19. Powell is survived by his wife Alma, their three children, and four grandchildren.
Melvin Van Peebles
Filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles has died at age 89. The filmmaker famous for Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song, and was the father of director and actor Mario Van Peebles. He was an indie film pioneer who financed his own movies in creative and determined ways.
Willie Garson a fan favorite on Sex and the City died at the age of 57 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. “I’m so glad you got to share all your adventures with me and were able to accomplish so much. I’m so proud of you. I will always love you, but I think it’s time for you to go on an adventure of your own,” his son, Nathan shared on Instagram, confirming the star’s death. It’s one of the recent celebrity deaths that really came as a shock.
Comedian Norm Macdonald died on September 15 after a long, secret battle with cancer. He is best remembered as a star player on SNL where he made Weekend Update his own. As with Garson, it was one of the recent celebrity deaths we did not expect as both battled cancer in secret.
Michael K. Williams
Yet another one of the recent celebrity deaths to truly shock the public, Michael K. Williams, died September 6 at the age of 54. He was a prolific actor, choreographer, and dancer. Two of his most well-known performances were found in HBO’s The Wire and Boardwalk Empire. But, he had amassed over 100 acting credits that found him in groundbreaking projects that showcased his artistry and immense talent.
Prolific television actor Ed Asner died on August 9 at the age of 91. He is remembered for his portrayal of Lou Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. But, his career spanned beyond the character. He would go on to win nine Emmy awards, becoming one of the most celebrated actors to appear on television.
Another one of the recent celebrity deaths, Charlie Watts, the long-time drummer for the Rolling Stones. He played with the band for over 50 years. He died on August 24 at the age of 80. The musician kept a lower profile than other members of the Stones, but he is widely regarded as one of the best drummers of all time. He was named in Rolling Stone‘s (the magazine) list of the 100 greatest drummers of all time.
Joseph “Dusty” Hill
We lost another rock ‘n’ roll legend in Joseph “Dusty” Hill. He was the long-time bassist of ZZ Top and performed with the group for over 50 years. Hill died on July 28. He was 72. “We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’ You will be missed greatly, amigo,” his bandmates said of him in a statement.
One of the truly shocking recent celebrity deaths was announced in July. Rapper Biz Markie died in his Baltimore home at the age of 57. He is best known for his iconic song “Just a Friend” which was one of the best songs of the 1980s. “It is with profound sadness that we announce, this evening, with his wife Tara by his side, hip hop pioneer Biz Markie peacefully passed away,” his rep said in a statement to Variety in July.
Broadway star and familiar face in films such as Gone Girl and Pumpkin, Lisa Banes died as a result of a hit-and-run in New York City on June 4. She was 64.
Clarence Williams III
Star of The Mod Squad, Clarence Williams III lost his battle with colon cancer on June 4. He was 81.
Creator of one of the most beloved children’s books in a generation, Eric Carle died at the age of 91 on May 23. The author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Carle was the recipient of the Children’s Literature Legacy Award among other honors.
According to a press release from NASCAR.com released on May 2, “Former NASCAR driver and team owner Eric McClure, who made nearly 300 starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in a career that spanned from 2003-16, died Sunday. He was 42 years old.”
Best known for her role in the 1987 film Moonstruck, Olympia Dukakis was 89 when she died on May 1. Audiences were treated to a treat recently when Netflix released a new installment of Tales of the City in 2019.
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and spouse of Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 99 on April 9. A statement released by the Queen said the Prince died “peacefully.” While he lived a long life, the news of his death was one of the most shocking recent celebrity deaths of 2021.
Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, was a legendary rapper and producer who died in White Plains New York following a heart attack on April 9. He was just 50.
The Ramona Quimby creator, Beverly Cleary, died on March 25 in California. She lived a full life that ended at the age of 104.
Superstar of stage and screen Jessica Walter died on March 24. She was 80. Her performance as Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development earned her an army of fans late in her career.
Oscar-nominated performer George Segal died at age 87 on March 23 following complications from bypass surgery.
Star of Degrassi Jahmil French died on March 2. The young performer was just 29. An actor who had many young fans, French’s passing was definitely one of the most shocking recent celebrity deaths.
Found member of The Supremes, Mary Wilson, died at 76 on February 8. “I just woke up to this news, my condolences to you Mary’s family, I am reminded that each day is a gift, I have so many wonderful memories of our time together,” Diana Ross shared on Twitter following her friend’s death. “‘The Supremes’ will live on in our hearts.”
Oscar-winning actor, best known for his role as Baron von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Christopher Plummer died on February 5 at home in Connecticut. He was 91.
Just a few short years after the release of her critically-acclaimed 2018 debut album, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, SOPHIE died in an accident in Athens, Greece on January 30 at the age of 34. The avant-garde producer and electronic musician was particularly loved by members of the LGBTQIA+ community after coming out in 2018. SOPHIE’s was one of the most shocking celebrity deaths of 2021.
Dustin Diamond who made the name “Screech” a household one died on February 1 after a battle with stage four lung cancer. The actor was best known for playing Samuel Powers in the nineties sitcom, Saved by the Bell.
Trailblazing Tony Award and Emmy-winning legend, Cicely Tyson died on January 28. She was 96. The actor found fame by performing in empowering roles that told the stories of Black women. This icon is deeply missed.
Beloved actor Cloris Leachman was best known for portraying Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She won a number of awards for her work on stage and screen through the years. She died of natural causes on January 27 at the age of 94.
Influential photojournalist Corky Lee documented the lives and achievements of Asian Americans to great acclaim. He died of complications from COVID-19 on January 27 at the age of 73.
Radio host Larry King died at the age of 87 on January 23. Though a cause of death was never officially released, his death occurred two weeks after the star was hospitalized with COVID-19.
The son of supermodel Stephanie Seymour and magazine publisher Peter Brant, Harry Brant, died on January 17. He was just 24. His family announced that his death was the result of an accidental overdose.
Classical pianist and widow of children’s TV superstar, Fred Rogers, Joanne Rogers died on January 14 at 92. Joanne and Fred Rogers were married for 50 years until his death in 2003 from stomach cancer.
Peter Mark Richman
Peter Mark Richman was an actor with over 130 television credits including his recurring role as Reverend Snow on Three’s Company. He died on January 14 at 93.
The billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson died on January 11. He was 87. He was one of the most prominent donors to the Republican Party.
Deezer D, best known for his role as nurse Malik McGrath on the medical drama ER, died on January 7, his brother announced on Instagram. He was 55.
There have been many recent celebrity deaths. We remember these stars who will live on forever in our hearts and minds. Each forged a legacy in the perspective fields becoming household names. As we mourn these deaths, take a moment to enjoy some of the amazing things they have created. Listen to an album by DMX, watch one of Cicely Tyson’s amazing films, or read one of Eric Carle’s books to your kids.
- 1 Here Are the Recent Celebrity Deaths of 2021
- 1.1 Stephen Sondheim
- 1.2 James Michael Tyler
- 1.3 Peter Scolari
- 1.4 Colin Powell
- 1.5 Melvin Van Peebles
- 1.6 Willie Garson
- 1.7 Norm Macdonald
- 1.8 Michael K. Williams
- 1.9 Ed Asner
- 1.10 Charlie Watts
- 1.11 Joseph “Dusty” Hill
- 1.12 Biz Markie
- 1.13 Lisa Banes
- 1.14 Ernie Lively
- 1.15 Clarence Williams III
- 1.16 Eric Carle
- 1.17 Eric McClure
- 1.18 Olympia Dukakis
- 1.19 Prince Philip
- 1.20 DMX
- 1.21 Beverly Cleary
- 1.22 Jessica Walter
- 1.23 George Segal
- 1.24 Jahmil French
- 1.25 Mary Wilson
- 1.26 Christopher Plummer
- 1.27 SOPHIE
- 1.28 Dustin Diamond
- 1.29 Cicely Tyson
- 1.30 Cloris Leachman
- 1.31 Corky Lee
- 1.32 Larry King
- 1.33 Harry Brant
- 1.34 Joanne Rogers
- 1.35 Peter Mark Richman
- 1.36 Sheldon Adelson
- 1.37 Deezer D
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