Celebrity Deaths 2023: Jerry Springer, Harry Belafonte Among Stars Who Have Died This Year


Topline

From daytime reality television star Jerry Springer to musical legend and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, the following celebrities are among the biggest stars who have died this year.

Key Facts

Listed below, by date, are celebrities who have died in 2023, leaving behind storied legacies in the film, television and music industries.

Jacklyn Zeman (may 9)

A fixture on soap opera General Hospital for more than four decades, Zeman died after a “short battle” with cancer on May 9 at age 70. Zeman played the role of nurse Bobbie Spencer for 45 years on the show and received four Daytime Emmy nominations, as well as a fifth in 2021 for her role on The Bay. She was one of General Hospital’s longest-running cast members and has appeared in more than 900 episodes. Executive producer Frank Valentini announced her death on Twitter, calling her “a bright light and true professional that brought so much positive energy with her to work.” In an interview with TV Insider in December, reflecting on her almost half century on the show, Zeman called her character, who came from a troubled background, “never evil but she was naughty” and did not know how to trust others. She credited her long tenure on the show and General Hopsital’s enduring popularity to the show’s fans. “Fans sent me baby blankets for when my daughters were born,” Zeman said. “People will show me photos of when they met me 25 years ago.”

Jerry Springer (april 27)

Springer, best known as the politician-turned-host of “The Jerry Springer Show,” died on April 27 at 79 in Evanston, Illinois. He had a brief but controversial career in politics, winning election to the Cincinnati City Council in 1971 before resigning just three years later after admitting to paying prostitutes. He returned to politics the next year, winning re-election to the council, and served one year as mayor in 1977. He then turned to radio and television, hosting his eponymous daytime talk show from 1991 to 2018, which became a ratings hit for its shock value, its controversial subjects, and is credited with ushering a cruder, ruder form of reality television. Some of Springer’s most shocking segments have gone viral on his YouTube channel in the years since they’ve aired. In his most-viewed segment on YouTube—“Real Girlfriend Vs. Online Girlfriend,” which has 43 million views—Springer introduces a man having an online love affair to his internet girlfriend, whom he had never met before, with his real-life girlfriend present. The 12-minute segment culminated in shouting matches and fist-fights between the two women. Springer’s other most-viewed segments are just as melodramatic, including one segment viewed 18 million times where a woman finds out her boyfriend cheated on her with her co-worker, and another viewed 13 million times in which a woman’s stepmother made advances toward the woman’s boyfriend (both segments resulted in fist-fights). Months before his death, Springer jokingly apologized about the lasting influence of his show. “I’m so sorry. What have I done? I’ve ruined the culture,” he said on David Yontef’s Behind the Velvet Rope podcast. “I just hope hell isn’t that hot because I burn real easy.” Springer died of pancreatic cancer, his spokesperson confirmed after his death.

Harry Belafonte (april 25)

Belafonte died of congestive heart failure on April 25 at age 96. The actor-singer achieved wide popularity in the 1950s, breaking racial barriers at a time when segregation still consumed the nation. His 1956 album, Calypso, was reportedly the first album by a single artist to sell more than one million copies. Calypso topped the Billboard charts for 31 weeks and contains hits including “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.” Belafonte became one of the first people to have won each of the four major entertainment awards—an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony—though his Oscar was won in a noncompetitive category. He was a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a major civil rights activist, providing money to get King and other activists out of jail, and taking part in the March on Washington in 1963. Belafonte said he was initially optimistic about the fight for civil rights, but said he became more cautious after marchers were “met with tear gas and clubs and killing and Kent State and an intensification of the Vietnam War.” Decades later, as the Black Lives Matter movement grew in response to police killings and brutality of Black individuals, Belafonte expressed disappointment about the progress of civil rights: “When I took up with Martin, I really thought, two, at best three years this should be over. Fifty years later, he’s dead and gone, and the Supreme Court just reversed voting rights, and the police are shooting us down dead in the streets.”

Lance Reddick (march 17)

Reddick, an actor known for starring in The Wire and the John Wick franchise, died on March 17 at age 60. He worked small but vivid roles on television series like Law & Order and The West Wing before landing his main role as Baltimore police officer Cedric Daniels on HBO’s The Wire, often considered one of the greatest television series of all time. He most recently appeared in John Wick: Chapter 4, a box office his that’s grossed more than $400 million worldwide. He reportedly died of heart disease, according to a death certificate obtained by TMZ, though his family and family attorney have disputed this claim, calling it inconsistent with his physically fit lifestyle. Shortly before his death, Reddick taped an interview for The Kelly Clarkson Show, which aired the week after Reddick died. He appeared with John Wick co-stars Keanu Reeves and Ian McShane, calling the film “stunningly gorgeous” and praising its theme of family. At the premiere of John Wick: Chapter 4 just days after Reddick’s death, Reeves called Reddick a “beautiful person and special artist” and expressed his gratitude for being able to work with him on the John Wick films for ten years. Attendees at the premiere were given blue ribbon pins to wear in honor of Reddick, and the screening began with a standing ovation in the actor’s memory.

Bobby Caldwell (march 14)

Caldwell, who had a successful decades-long career as a singer, died on March 14 at age 71. Caldwell was known for his work in the R&B, soul and jazz genres, including his most famous, widely covered hit single, “What You Won’t Do For Love.” Artists who sampled or covered that song include Tupac Shakur, Natalie Cole, Peabo Bryson, Boyz II Men, Jessie Ware and English pop group Go West. His debut album Bobby Caldwell, released in 1978, went double-platinum in the United States, propelling him to fame. Caldwell’s influence on music was evident as tributes from admirers poured in after his death. On Instagram, musician Questlove expressed disappointment he never got to meet Caldwell, calling him “the closing chapter in a generation in which record execs wanted to hide faces on album covers so perhaps maybe their artist could have a chance,” a reference to how Caldwell’s face was concealed on his debut album cover so his racial ambiguity would increase the amount of radio stations that would play his music. Caldwell is white, but myths persisted that he was Black. Also on Instagram, Chance the Rapper shared a screenshot of a text exchange between him and Caldwell in which he asked for Caldwell’s permission to sample a song. “I’ll be honored if you sample my song,” Caldwell wrote. Rapper Common, who has also sampled Caldwell’s music, posted on Instagram: “I can’t thank you enough!”

Raquel Welch (february 15)

Welch, who rose to fame as a sex symbol and actress in the 1960s, died on February 15 at age 82. She became known for her role as a cavewoman in One Million Years B.C. (1966), a box-office success that rocketed her to fame in part because of her doe-skin bikini that adorned best-selling posters. She starred in such films as Fantastic Voyage (1966), Myra Breckinridge (1970), The Last of Sheila (1973) and The Wild Party (1975), and she won a Golden Globe for her role in The Three Musketeers (1973). In 1998, Playboy named Welch the No. 3 sexiest star of the 20th century, just behind Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Welch is also known for suing a major Hollywood studio for age discrimination—and winning. After she was abruptly fired from Cannery Row in 1981, allegedly because her insistence on doing her own hair and makeup at home violated her contract, MGM replaced her with Debra Winger, an actress 15 years her junior. Welch filed a $24 million lawsuit, stating: “What they did was use me to get financing for the movie, then they dumped me for Debra, which they’d been planning all along.” The jury sided with Welch, who was awarded more than $10 million, and the verdict was upheld in an appeals court years later.

Burt Bacharach (february 8)

One of the most important pop songwriters of the 20th Century, the composer and songwriter died at age 94 at his home in Los Angeles. He was known for his pop song compositions, many of which he collaborated with co-writer Hal David and singer Dionne Warwick. He wrote at least 52 top 40 hits, according to his website, including No. 1 hits like “This Guy’s in Love With You,” sung by Herb Alpert, and “That’s What Friends Are For,” sung first by Rod Stewart and then by Warwick to raise funds for AIDS research. Other artists Bacharach wrote or produced for include Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, Elvis Costello and Patti LaBelle. He won three Academy Awards—two for best original song, and one for best score—as well as six Grammy Awards and one Emmy Award. Bacharach has frequently been honored as one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century and of all time. He was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1972 and won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Bacharach and David as the 32nd-best songwriters of all time, praising David’s “knack for matching wistful sentiments to Bacharach’s unconventional jazz chords and constantly shifting time signatures.” Warwick said in a statement Bacharach’s death felt like “losing a family member.” On Twitter, Paul McCartney praised Bacharach’s work as distinctive and different from others in the 1960s and 1970s, calling him “an inspiration.”

Cindy Williams (january 25)

Williams, best known for her role as Shirley in the hit sitcom Laverne & Shirley, died on January 25 at age 75 following a brief illness. She starred on Laverne & Shirley from 1976 to 1982, appearing in 158 episodes, according to IMDB, and earned a Golden Globe nomination. Garry Marshall first pitched the show to ABC, recalling in 2000 there were “no shows about blue-collar girls on the air.” Williams was well known for her chemistry with co-star Penny Marshall, who died in 2013. Williams said the two had a sort of telepathy, stating: “If there were an Olympic event for comedy, I think we’d take the gold.” The two secured starring roles in their own show after becoming fan favorites as minor characters on the sitcom Happy Days. Williams’ successful run on Laverne & Shirley ended early: She was pregnant at the time and her character was written off the show, leaving Laverne on her own for much of the final season. She sued Paramount for $20 million to be paid for the episodes she would miss; the case was settled out of court for an unknown amount. Though Williams was best known for her sitcom work, she had a successful film career. She starred in three particularly acclaimed films from important directors: George Cukor’s Travels with My Aunt (1972), George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973) and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974).

David Crosby (january 18)

The musician died of Covid-19 complications on January 18 at age 81. He rose to fame as a member of two rock bands: The Byrds and later Crosby, Stills & Nash (and later, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young). His popularity in the 1960s and 1970s made him an icon of American counterculture, with lyrics that opposed the war in Vietnam. One of his songs, “Wooden Ships,” was written at the height of the Vietnam War and described the consequences of an apocalyptic war. Among the lyrics are descriptions of terror and dehumanization amid war: “Horror grips us as we watch you die / All we can do is echo your anguished cries / Stare as all human feelings die.” His activism extended well beyond the peak of his musical career. He tweeted opposition to the Vietnam War as recently as 2020, stating: “More than 50k American young guys DIED for that mistake.” With The Byrds, Crosby’s biggest hits on the Billboard charts include “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” a Bob Dylan cover. With Crosby, Stills & Nash, his biggest hits are “Wasted On the Way” and “Just a Song Before I Go.” He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a member of both of his rock bands, and he had a prolific solo career, releasing his final album in 2021.

Lisa Marie Presley (january 12)

Presley, a singer and the daughter of Elvis Presley, died on January 12 at age 54 of caridac arrest. TK. Presley embarked on a music career and released three albums. Her debut album, To Whom It May Concern, released in 2003 and charted in the top 5 in the United States. She was also well known for her brief marriage to Michael Jackson from 1994 to 1996, eloping with him less than three weeks after she finalized her divorce to Danny Keough. The relationship attracted media attention: Presley denied allegations that the marriage was a publicity stunt, and Jackson reportedly depended on Presley for support as accusations of child molestation were made against him during their relationship. Presley also appeared in the video for Jackson’s single, “You Are Not Alone.” Presley’s final public appearance had been just two days earlier at the Golden Globe Awards, where the film Elvis, a biographical drama about her father’s life, was nominated for multiple awards. She was buried at Graceland—her father’s mansion which is now a museum—next to her son, Benjamin Keough, who died in 2020 at age 27. Presley is survived by three children, including Riley Keough, an actress who most recently starred in Daisy Jones & The Six.

Further Reading

The Billionaires Who Died In 2022 (Forbes)





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