2016 has been, beyond any stretch of the imagination, a year of death and despair. The horrors of Syria, the continuing, inexplicable evil hatred of terrorism against the innocent, the avoidable, badly conceived stupidity of Brexit, leaving us teetering on the edge of an abyss, the resurgence of a familiar, Nazi-style populism and the election of Donald Trump; all these factors combine to obliterate any hope humanity has for a peaceful, progressive future. As one commentator quipped, comparing the rise of ‘The Donald’ with the exit of Obama, “We’ve gone from hope to grope in 8 years…”
The sadness of what’s happened in popular culture fades into comparable insignificance, yet in our still relatively ‘safe’ little world, it looks as if all the goodness and pleasure has been drained away. That grinning proto-fascist Nigel Farage shared a statement with the Trumpers when referring to the new movement of anti-establishment politics as ‘draining the swamp’. The trouble is, when you drain a swamp you kill all the good organisms too. Perhaps, if you’re of a religious persuasion, you might liken 2016 to God carrying out a bit of ‘Spring Cleaning’. If that’s the case, as ever, he’s proving to be as bombastically cruel and insensitive as ever. There are countless politicians, bankers, CEOs and fraudsters who the Grim Reaper seems to have by-passed. He only seems to want rid of the positive people. So, Bible readers, answer this; has God finally handed over management to Satan? It certainly looks like it.
George Michael, aged just 53, died peacefully at home over Christmas in bed from heart failure. I never bought any of his records yet he seemed a nice bloke and possessed an admirable talent. He is the latest among dozens of celebrities to have died in the past 12 months, including transformative figures such as David Bowie, Muhammad Ali and Prince.
The news of Bowie's death from cancer at the age of 69 on January 10 was met with shock and grief around the world, alongside a celebration of his extraordinary career. A similar reaction followed the death of superstar singer Prince, who was 57, on April 21.
Presidents and prime ministers from around the world paid tribute to boxing champion Ali, who died aged 74 on June 3. Thousands of mourners gathered at his funeral to celebrate his extraordinary life.
Other highly influential figures to pass away in 2016 included author Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, the former First Lady of the United States Nancy Reagan, and Beatles producer Sir George Martin.
Britain also said goodbye to much-loved stars of stage and screen including Sir Terry Wogan, Paul Daniels, Ronnie Corbett and Victoria Wood.
Here is a list of celebrities we lost in 2016:
1) Singer David Bowie died aged 69 on January 10.
2) Actor Alan Rickman died aged 69 on January 14.
3) Eagles frontman Glenn Frey died aged 67 on January 18.
4) Broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan died on January 31 aged 77.
5) Author Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, died aged 89 on February 19.
6) Actor Frank Kelly, who played Father Jack in the comedy series Father Ted, died aged 77 on February 28.
7) Coronation Street creator Tony Warren died aged 79 on March 1.
8) Nancy Reagan, actress and former first lady of the United States, died aged 94 on March 6.
9) Beatles producer Sir George Martin died aged 90 on March 8.
10) Magician Paul Daniels died aged 77 on March 17.
11) Comedian Ronnie Corbett died aged 85 on March 31.
12) This Morning agony aunt Denise Robertson died aged 83 on March 31.
13) Sherlock Holmes actor Douglas Wilmer died aged 96 on March 31.
14) Drugs campaigner Howard Marks, known as Mr Nice, died aged 70 on April 10.
15) Reality TV star and music producer David Gest died aged 62 on April 12.
16) British playwright Sir Arnold Wesker died aged 83 on April 12.
17) Comedian Victoria Wood died aged 62 on April 20.
18) Superstar singer Prince died aged 57 on April 21.
19) Television writer Carla Lane, known for The Liver Birds and Bless This House, died aged 87 on May 31.
20) Boxing champion Muhammad Ali died aged 74 on June 3.
21) Singer Dave Swarbrick of folk band Fairport Convention died aged 75 on June 3.
22) Anton Yelchin, actor in Star Trek, died aged 27 on June 19.
23) Comedian, Royle Family actress and writer Caroline Aherne died aged 52 on July 2.
24) Ken Barrie, the voice of Postman Pat, died aged 83 on July 29.
25) Kenny Baker, who played droid R2D2 in the Star Wars films, died aged 81 on August 13.
26) Gene Wilder, who played Willy Wonka and other memorable roles, died aged 83 on August 28.
27) Former Israeli president Shimon Peres died aged 93 on September 28.
28) Former Coronation Street actress Jean Alexander, who played Hilda Ogden, died aged 90 on October 14.
29) Raine Spencer, the stepmother of Diana, Princess of Wales, died aged 87 on October 21.
30) London-born fashion designer Richard Nicoll died aged 39 on October 21.
31) Jimmy Perry, screenwriter known for shows including Dad's Army and It Ain't Half Hot Mum, died aged 93 on October 23.
32) Singer, songwriter and television personality Pete Burns, who founded pop band Dead or Alive, died aged 57 on October 23.
33) Sir Jimmy Young, who hosted BBC radio programmes for half a century, died aged 95 on November 7.
34) The death at 82 of Canadian singer, songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen, who penned the classic song Hallelujah, was announced on November 11.
35) The Man From U.N.C.L.E star Robert Vaughn died aged 83 on November 11.
36) Musician Craig Gill, drummer of Madchester band Inspiral Carpets, died aged 44 on November 22.
37) The death of West End star Keo Woolford, 49, who starred in The King And I opposite Elaine Paige and in the television remake of Hawaii Five-O, was announced on November 30.
38) The death of comic actor Andrew Sachs, 86, best-known for playing Spanish waiter Manuel in Fawlty Towers, was announced on December 1.
39) Peter Vaughan, who starred in Game Of Thrones and Porridge, died aged 93 on December 6.
40) Musician Greg Lake died aged 69 on December 8.
41) Sunday Times journalist AA Gill died aged 62 on December 10.
42) Hollywood actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor died aged 99 on December 18.
43) Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt died aged 68 on December 24.
44) The death of George Michael, 53, was announced on December 25.
As I write this, there’s still five days of 2016 left to run. Let’s hope the Reaper’s tired out and relaxing with a turkey leg and a mince pie. And let’s further hope that in 2017 he takes a much needed sabbatical. We’ll have enough to worry about over the coming months without another fat catalogue of tragic death.